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Border Sewage Policy Update, March 2018

CALL TO ACTION: If you are unable to come to any of our events, then please consider donating to our CLEAN WATER NOW campaign. Click here to donate and learn more about it. Please spread the word.


By Gabriela Torres. Policy Coordinator/Attorney

  • Surfrider San Diego visits Capitol Hill to advocate for the continued support of the Border Water Infrastructure Program (BWIP)
  • South Bay Clean Water Movement - No Border Sewage sends a letter to the Secretary of State asking that environmental concerns to be addressed by NAFTA.
  • March Policies and events:
    • Pressure IBWC Commissioner Drusina to take an active stance on border sewage solutions
    • Action Alert to the Congressional Delegation asking for support of BWIP
  • #mycleanh2o - Paloma Aguirre featured story

Thus far, in 2018 we have seen 8 sewage spills, mostly due to “technical failures” at the Mexican pump station totaling 4,565,000 gallons of raw sewage. This amount encompasses only reported events and does not include rain events when water is purposefully diverted into the Tijuana River Valley but not measured or reported.

February in Review

In mid-February we went to Capitol Hill and spent 3 days visiting our Congressional representatives asking for support for many important issues, including the Border Water Infrastructure Program. We also took this opportunity to request that our Southern California delegation support the the inclusion of environmental concerns in the NAFTA renegotiations.

Upon our return we used the momentum created by our visits and issued a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussing NAFTA concerns in more detail. A copy of the letter can be found here: Border Sewage NAFTA letter to Secretary of State.


Our main points are as follows:

  1. NAFTA must include clear responsibilities related to the elimination of trans-border sewage from Mexico and must include economic ramifications if these responsibilities are not met.
  2. NAFTA must require the elimination of chemical dumping into the Tijuana River Valley and other watersheds shared by the United States. There should also be clear economic consequences and enforcement measures as well as a binational monitoring of these chemical substances.
  3. NAFTA must necessitate the creation and enforcement of recycling and plastic reduction programs in Mexico. Mechanisms should be put into place with respect to funding of these programs and the role of industry to this effect.  

March Objectives

This month we will focus on a letter writing campaign directed at IBWC Commissioner Edward Drusina, asking that he commit to hold Mexico to its obligations under the 1944 Water Treaty and the body of minutes that have come after. We will also ask that he notify the Department of State as to the importance and gravity of the water quality issues in the Tijuana River Valley.

We will begin an Action Alert targeting Congress and requesting that they support BWIP. BWIP is an EPA program that supports matched funding for sewage infrastructure repairs in Mexico. Without this program, vital repairs to collectors and damaged sewage infrastructure will not occur and system failures will have immediate impacts on the Tijuana River Valley and on Imperial Beach.

On Saturday, March 24, 2018 we will be hosting our 2nd Annual March for Clean Water to tell our elected officials that “Enough is Enough.” Please join us at 12 noon at Portwood Pier Plaza - 10 Evergreen Ave, Imperial Beach. Wear blue. Make signs. Decorate strollers. The march will finish at the end of Palm around 2pm. The after-party will be at Luigi’s for our marchers. Please come out and support.

If you cannot make the march then join us for our monthly meeting on: Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 6:30 pm at the Imperial Beach library (810 Imperial Beach Blvd., Imperial Beach).  Our guest speaker will be Ally Senturk of the Blue Water Task Force (BWTF). 

The sewage and pollution problems in the Tijuana River Valley have existed for decades. Surfider is ready to collaborate with all interested stakeholders to reach creative solutions. As an organization, we do this to protect our beaches, our waves. But we also advocate for residents and visitors like Paloma Aguirre, a resident of Imperial Beach and the Coastal Marine Director at Wildcoast. Read her #mycleanh2ostory* below.

I first surfed Imperial Beach in October 2001. I had just moved here from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I had a couple of friends living in the area who encouraged me to come compete in bodyboarding in the Bodyboarding International Association’s circuit. I didn’t have a wetsuit, and was weirded-out by the “seaweed” (kelp) being so big, and the water was probably 60 degrees. But, I caught a perfect barrel right in front of IB Blvd. and needless to say, I was hooked. Fast forward to 2006, I was walking on the beach when I saw someone putting signs in the sand that read “Clean Water Now”. I stopped and asked him: what are you doing? and he said: “don’t you know you surf the most polluted beach in America?” “I am the ED of WILDCOAST, come and help us out”. I had no idea I could’ve contracted a life-threatening disease for several years. The very next day I became a WILDCOAST volunteer. I’ve been an IB clean water activist ever since. I now oversee WILDCOAST’s Border Program, which works to stop cross-border pollution, in order to prevent children and families from getting sick. This is what drives me to do what I do everyday. Even in the moments when I’ve enraged agencies in Mexico for speaking the truth, or elected officials in the U.S. for calling out for their inaction, I never fault. I fight for clean water for those who can’t.

*#mycleanh2ostory is written by local activists who are fighting for clean water.

CALL TO ACTION: If you are unable to come to any of our events, then please consider donating to our CLEAN WATER NOW campaign. Click here to donate and learn more about it. Please spread the word.