Every year, billions of gallons of polluted stormwater and wastewater from Mexico bring raw sewage, harmful chemicals and huge amounts of trash to beaches across south San Diego County and northern Baja California. These flows make beaches unsafe for public use, impair habitat and open space, and lead to multiple illnesses. Border-area U.S. beaches were closed every single day in 2022, and have already experienced a year’s worth of polluted flows in the first 25 days of January 2023 due to heavy rainfall. The results are detrimental to local economies and pose an enormous public health hazard on both sides of the border. It also disproportionately impacts communities of color, making this an environmental justice issue.
Surfrider has long been advocating for solutions to the pollution at the US/Mexico border though the San Diego Chapter's Clean Border Water Now campaign. Now we are asking Congress to fund solutions and help fill the funding gap of over $300 Million for the proposed Comprehensive Infrastructure Solution - a binational project that would significantly reduce toxic transboundary flows by 95% during the summer months and 76% during wet weather. The US/Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Grant Program (BWIP) offers one possible avenue for closing this funding gap and we would like to see it funded at its fully authorized level of $100 million so we can quickly see the capital improvement projects take place that are needed to fix both the stormwater and sewage infrastructure problems at the border.
The final FY2023 budget deal passed by Congress just before the close of 2022 included $36.386 million for BWIP, an increase of $4.386 million from the previous year. With this upward momentum and driven by the need to address this serious public health crisis and environmental justice issue, we are hopeful for another increase in BWIP funds in FY 2024 that can be directed towards protecting clean water in the San Diego/Tijuana border region for the enjoyment and health of all people.
Visit the Clean Border Water Now page on the Surfrider Foundation San Diego's website to learn more information about the transboundary pollution crisis.