San Diego County Chapter

Clean Border Water Now

Clean Border Water Now‘s (CBWN) mission is to address and eliminate the sewage, trash, sediment and chemical waste that plagues our ocean, waves and beaches in the Southern California border region. We do this by raising awareness through outreach and education, while impacting policy through our advocacy work.

Our Campaign’s Four Main Goals:

  1. Stop untreated sewage wastewater from entering the Pacific Ocean through the Tijuana River Valley (TRV).
  2. Stop chemical pollution from entering the Pacific Ocean through the TRV. 
  3. Stop plastic pollution from flowing through the TRV to the Pacific Ocean. 
  4. Stop coastal water pollution, including untreated wastewater and chemicals that travel laterally from Baja California beaches to San Diego county beaches.

CBWN is a volunteer-led program, by three local Imperial Beach residents.  It is also supported by a part-time staff/volunteer Policy Coordinator. The CBWN Committee meets every second Thursday of the month from 6:30-8:00 PM.  Check the Surfrider San Diego Events Calendar or sign up for our monthly newsletter to find out the exact location/date/time. 

To reach out to the CBWN program, email: CBWN@surfridersd.org

Have you fallen ill from a day at the beach? Report it below using our tracking tool!

The Real Border Emergency

The health and well-being of coastal communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and the millions of people who enjoy this stretch of coastline have long been under threat from the flow of untreated sewage, industrial pollution and trash into the Tijuana River Watershed and the Pacific Ocean.

Watch this gripping Surfrider Foundation video to learn more about this environmental and public health crisis.

Did You Know?

  • In 2020, the border area beaches were closed nearly 300 days!  
  • The Imperial Beach shorelines were closed for more than 40% of 2020! 
  • In February 2017, over 143 million gallons of raw sewage spilled on to the South San Diego County beaches for over two weeks without any notification. This is enough liquid to almost fill the Rose Bowl TWICE!
  •  Since the big spill in 2017, we have sent in over 10,000 letters and post cards for clean water to all levels of government!

Click the headings below or scroll down the webpage to learn more about the CBWN Program.

California’s border with Baja California is a complex region with unique environmental issues. Water pollution and marine debris have plagued the region for decades leading some beaches to be closed to ocean recreation more days than they are open some years. The overarching challenge is that the Tijuana River Watershed is shared by two countries with vastly different policies in place to protect water quality. The area also crosses multiple jurisdictions, including private, local, state and federal properties. The issues are caused by a myriad of factors such as topography, socioeconomics, engineering, rapid population growth, poor planning and a lack of government transparency. The solution to this problem depends on resources, knowledge and political will on both sides of the border to collaborate on a solution. 

The TRV and South Bay region of San Diego, along with the communities in Northern Baja California, have experienced contamination due to untreated raw sewage from Baja California since the 1930s. Incidents of contamination escalated up until the 1990s when litigation in the United States resulted in the building of an additional sewage pump station and treatment facility meant to cover dry weather events. However, the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the mid-1990s resulted in a growing Mexican middle class, a booming manufacturing industry, and nearly exponential population growth. Tijuana’s sewage infrastructure has not been able to cope with the needs of this quickly expanding population. The problem of inadequate sewage infrastructure has been exacerbated by an increase in unpredictable storm events experienced in the last few years.

From February 6 to 23, 2017, 143 million gallons of raw sewage was discharged into the Tijuana River, upstream in Tijuana MX. Since then, there have been hundreds of small scale spills of raw sewage from Mexico. Sewage discharges from Mexico into the Tijuana River valley have created an emergency situation that is threatening public health, the environment, and our national security. To make matters worse, the Administration is trying to deregulate and defund environmental protections at the Federal level. Prior to the Big Spill in 2017, Imperial Beach, Coronado, the TRV, and the surrounding South Bay communities have become sick, economically impacted, and environmentally devastated by the transborder sewage issue since it has been an ongoing problem for well over half a century.  

Since the Big Spill in February 2017, we have gained a large group of followers made up of community residents and elected officials around the county.  We have revitalized activism within our community with our proactive approach in turning frustrations into positive actions. People know we have the best intentions for our community and nothing else.

Sign up for our monthly newsletters to be delivered directly to your inbox or read them here.

We all want Clean Border Water Now, but do you know what this Surfrider San Diego program is all about?⁠

We’ve recently received many inquiries about the CBWN campaign, so we’ve put together this new and informative Frequently Asked Questions blog post.⁠

Letters sent to elected officials since 2018:

  • February 2021 – Letter to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to declare a SOE in the Tijuana River Valley
  • August 2020 – Letter to Coronado to publish County DEH water quality results
  • August 2020 – Letter to Imperial Beach to publish County DEH water quality results
  • August 2020 – Letter to Elected Officials to stop the daily flows
  • April 2020 – Letter to Environmental Protection Agency, International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), and County of San Diego
  • September 2019 – Letter to House Committee on Financial Services
  • April 2019 – Letter to Federal Elected Officials
  • December 2018 – Letter to Federal Elected Officials
  • August 2018 – Letter to the San Diego County Supervisors
  • August 2018 – Letter to Appropriations Committee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies
  • June 2018 – Letter to the Mayor and City Council of San Diego
  • May 2018 – Letter to the California Governor
  • April 2018 – Letter to the San Diego County Supervisors
  • April 2018 – Letter to the House Committee on Financial Services
  • February 2018 – Letter to Commissioner Drusina (IBWC)
  • February 2018 – Letter to San Diego County Supervisor Cox
  • February 2018 – Letter to Federal Elected Officials
  • February 2018 – Letter to State Elected Officials

Check out our collection of #mycleanH2Ostory activists! If you would like to share your story about how transboundary sewage and pollution has affected you, we’d love to feature you – send us an email!

The TRV Solution

The TRV Solution is a conceptual design plan created to address some of the toughest sewage issues that we’re facing at the border. In the absence of federal leadership, Surfrider began designing this solution in 2018 on the heels of one of the most egregious sewage spills the region had ever seen. The goal of the TRV Solution is to address the sewage, chemicals, plastics, tires, and sediment that are destroying the TRV and putting the health and safety of the community at risk. The Tijuana Slough shoreline has been closed in excess of 215 days in 2019 alone.

For instance, the TRV Solution calls for:

  • continuous cleaning of the TRV,
  • building of infrastructure that will divert more sewage to the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant and;
  • treatment of water before it gets to the beaches and Pacific Ocean. 

The TRV Solution is the culmination of two and a half years of collaborative research, attendance at public meetings, and experience and discussions with a wide range of community members, non profits, agencies and decision-makers. Surfrider has attended nearly 100 stakeholder meetings over the last three years on the border sewage issue and it is those meetings that have helped shape the TRV Solution. Regular attendance and participation at public meetings allowed Surfrider the opportunity to develop strong relationships with the community and agencies highly involved in the border sewage issue. In drafting the TRV Solution, Surfrider also took into consideration more than 10,000 letters collected from San Diego County residents over the last three years, which advocated for funding, projects, and legislation to combat the border pollution crisis.

Tijuana's Toxic Tributaries

Watch this video to see how the trash, sewage and chemical waste travels across the border.

Video by: This Is Ca

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