Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Report Shows Beach Water Quality Jeopardizing Health


We may think of San Diego County's beaches as five-star attractions. But an environmental group says the water quality at many of our beaches get lower ratings. Part of the problem is the lack of testing.

The Natural Resources Defense Council tracks beach closings, advisories and water quality for more than 6,000 beaches across the country.

"This is the fourth year in a row that we've seen more than 20,000 closing advisory days across the country," says Noah Garrison, an attorney with the NRDC's water program in Los Angeles. "And what that shows us is that problems with beach water pollution are simply not going away."

He says many of us are swimming in our own sewage as runoff flows through storm drains to the ocean.

"The stormwater source essentially takes rainwater or water that comes from discharges from construction and industrial sites or even from people's sprinklers as they over water their lawns," Garrison says. "And that runoff flows into the streets and into gutters and storm drains picking up animal waste, trash and toxic pollutants before it flows out to receiving waters, the beach or lakes."

Sewage spills are another source of contamination.

Garrison says there were 460 beach closure advisories in San Diego County last year.

"That was affected by the closing of sampling programs or the reduction in monitoring programs and also by drought conditions which meant there was less rainfall," Garrison says.

He says several beaches had higher levels of bacteria and other pollutants last year than in 2007.

"The Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge is a consistent violator, upwards of 20 percent annually of the samples exceed water quality or public health standards. Also there was a number of sewage releases at Imperial Beach last year. So that's a persistent issue."

He also says Shelter Island at the San Diego Bay is another area where water quality was unhealthful last year.

NRDC's report also provides a five-star rating guide for 200 of the nation's most popular beaches.

The rating is based on indicators of beachwater quality, monitoring frequency and public notification of contamination.

No beaches in San Diego County received five stars.

But three received four stars including Pacific Beach at Grand Avenue and Oceanside municipal beach.

Garrison says funding for beach water testing is critical to let people know which areas are safe or not for swimming.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

BECC-NADB Board of Directors certifies and approves US$30 million in funding for 6 new border projects

(San Antonio, Texas) The Board of Directors of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) and the North American Development Bank (NADB) held its semi-annual meeting today at which 6 projects totaling US$38.1 million were certified and approved to receive US$28 million in loans and an additional US$2.37 million in grants. These projects wil benefit a population of 723,546 residents of the border region.

These projects include 5 separate water and wastewater improvement projects for the Mexican communities of Tijuana and Playas de Rosarito, Baja California. The Comisión Estatal de Servicios Públicos de Tijuana, (CESPT) is responsible for providing water and wastewater services to both Tijuana and Playas de Rosarito. CESPT is undertaking 4 separate projects to expand its wastewater collection and treatment systems for the areas of Colonia Aztlán, Colonia Independencia and Colonia Lomas de Rosarito in Playas de Rosarito., as well as to expand the Rosarito I Wastewater Treatment Plant. A fifth project being undertaken by CESPT will expand the potable water system in Tijuana, including the construction of two new storage tanks with a capacity of 2.4 million gallons. The project will also expand wastewater collection in Tijuana, providing connections and new service for 15, 667 residences. All together, these projects represent a total investment of US$37.8 million by CESPT for Tijuana and Rosarito. The NADB is providing a loan for $380 million Pesos (US$27.96 million at an exchange rate of $13.59 Pesos to the Dollar). CESPT is also receiving grant funds in the amount of US$2.2 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Border Environment Infrastructure Fund (BEIF), administered by the NADB.

The BECC-NADB Board also certified a project for the expansion of the water distribution system in Colonia Esperanza, Chihuahua. The project, with a total cost of US$ 333, 444 will provide new waterlines, 360 new residential water connections, and will install a chlorine disinfection system. The project is receiving US$166,722 in grant funds from the EPA’s BEIF program.

Despite challenging market conditions over the last year, the BECC and NADB continued to develop, finance and construct needed infrastructure projects throughout the border region in both Mexico and the United States.

“Given the current conditions that are restricting sources of financing, the Bank, together with the BECC, is emerging as a solid alternative for financing environmental projects for the border,” stated Chairman of the Board, Lic. Ricardo Ochoa Rodríguez, Head of International Affairs Unit, Mexican Ministry of Finance and Public Credit.

The Board of Directors heard reports from the BECC and NADB, outlining recent project and financial activities, including the recent complete capitalization of the Bank by the U.S. and Mexico.

“On behalf of the United States Treasury, we welcome the final capital contributions by the United States and Mexico, which fulfill the financial obligations of our two countries to the NADB,” stated co-chairman of the Board, Karen Mathiasen, Director of the Office of Multilatral Development Banks for the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

In its 14 years of operation, BECC has certified 159 environmental infrastructure projects along the U.S.-Mexico border, which represent a total investment of approximately US$3.23 billion. NADB is providing approximately US$964.5 million in loans and grants to support 128 of those projects. BECC-certified and NADB-financed projects are estimated to be benefiting almost 12 million residents of the U.S.-Mexico border region through improved infrastructure for a cleaner environment.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ranchers fear return of floods

With wet winter forecast, debris removal urged

If the Tijuana River Valley isn't cleared of debris by early fall, horse owners and ranchers fear they could have a repeat of last year's catastrophic flooding.

Forecasters are predicting El Niño conditions that could mean a wet, stormy winter for San Diego. The Tijuana River and its levees and flood-control channels remain clogged after moderate storms in December flooded nearby ranches and farms. The flood killed four horses and nearly a dozen goats, and ruined crops, nurseries full of plants, and barns full of hay, equipment and vehicles.

San Diego officials are working on a multiyear permit to clean up the sediment and debris in the river but say the process is complicated and involves more than just the Tijuana River Valley.

“We have attempted to find a solution to this problem because it's happening all over the city and the county,” said Jennifer Nichols Kearns, a spokeswoman for the city's Storm Water Department. “This is a master plan for a master permit to allow us to go in at any point in time, anytime there is flooding, and clean up.”

Meetings tonight and tomorrow will allow the public to view and comment on an environmental study of the Master Storm Water System Maintenance Program. The master plan will guide maintenance of all of its storm-water facilities, including natural and concrete drainage channels.

The environmental study does not address costs, and it is unclear who will pay for the cleanup. Comments may be submitted on the environmental study until Aug. 22.

Nichols Kearns said the Tijuana River Valley is a priority.

“It's considered a high-risk area,” she said. “We're very concerned about it. We know it's a sensitive issue. Last year was horrific and horrendous.”

Locals got hit from all sides Dec. 17 as clogged city and county flood-control channels, the river and its levee system diverted floodwaters onto their properties. Horse owners and emergency workers swam in gushing water while making dramatic rescues of horses and other animals.

Bruce McIntyre with Helix Environmental, a consultant working on the environmental study and master permit, said the city is trying to find ways to maintain channels while reducing impacts to wetlands habitat.

McIntyre said the process has taken a long time because several agencies are involved, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Maintenance has been done on a case-by-case basis, but McIntyre said the agencies pushed for a better process. A master plan would give the city a 20-year permit and allow the agencies annual input on any cleanup impacts.

John Gabledon, president of the Tijuana River Valley Equestrian Association, said he was told the permit might be issued in November or December. He said that might be too late.

“Meteorologists say an El Niño could bring normal rain, which is more than we had last year and we still flooded,” Gabledon said.

Gabledon, who boards three horses at Suncoast Farms at Hollister Street and Monument Road, said San Diego has cleaned out part of a channel but the hydrology — the way the water moves in the area — has not changed.

“The Tijuana River pilot channel is even fuller and higher than last year,” Gabledon said. “I wouldn't say horse owners are nervous, but many are taking steps to get their horses out fast.”

Emma Spurling and her husband, Mike, own the 40-acre Suncoast Farms. She said the December flooding cost them more than $10,000.

“I have an emergency plan,” Spurling said. “My clients know where their horses are to go. We have temporary corrals on high ground. We have a neighbor who's offered her arena.”

Gabledon said if it rains as much or more than last year, it could be devastating.

“There would definitely be loss of animal life and possibly human life,” Gabledon said. “We'd like to prevent that.”


Storm Water Maintenance public meetings

When: 6 to 7 p.m. today and tomorrow

Today: Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library, 5148 Market St., San Diego

Tomorrow: Nobel Recreation Center, 8810 Judicial Drive, San Diego

Agenda: Information provided on maintenance program; comments accepted.


By Janine Zúñiga (Union Tribune)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Four Walls International

“It’s a secondhand town. Everything has been used by somebody else before,” says Oscar Romo, a UC San Diego lecturer on urban studies and planning and the Coastal Training Program coordinator at the 2500-acre Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR) in Imperial Beach. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administers the Coastal Training Program.”

“When torrential rains come—as they did in the winter of 2004-2005—mattresses, tires and other secondhand debris hurtle down the canyon’s eroded hillsides, and end up north of the border in the Tijuana River estuary. South of the border, the storms bring death and destruction to impoverished canyon residents—as improvised shacks built from tires, garage doors and other scrap materials tumble down the slopes.”

There are people who need help in our own back yard (we’re from San Diego). Most of the tires we are building our first home with were pulled from the Tijuana River Estuary, after they had washed down from Los Laureles Canyon. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?


- Poverty. Migrant workers build their homes cash-out-of-pocket. Many of them work in Maquiladores making $2-3 per hour, and being exposed to harsh chemicals. I can’t say for certain, but I’m willing to bet a large portion of their wages goes towards food and clean water.

-Sanitation. None whatsoever. This is why one of the best beaches in San Diego, Imperial Beach, is shut down 180 days out of the year. When it rains in Tijuana, all of that raw sewage is swept into the canyons and then to the estuary across the border, finally leading to the ocean.

-Clean Water. There is no running water here. These homes are built by squatters out of any materials they can get their hands on (sound familiar?). Wages earned from terrible Maquiladores jobs have to pay for a natural human right.

-Food. This, along with water, goes back to poverty. I don’t know figures for this particular area, but we all know there are plenty of places around the world where people work terrible jobs for meager wages, just to feed themselves and stay hydrated. There are definitely people in need here.

-Erosion. Intense rains in the winter wash all sorts of debris down the canyon, and put people’s lives in danger. The canyon gets eaten away, taking the homes people have pieced together on top of it.


4 Walls! I’m just going to go through a hypothetical situation here, it’s easiest.

First things first, we have to find our community. We have to find a group of people within this canyon that are willing to work (most work at factories so we will have to figure that out, perhaps hire labor) and open to the idea of a home that takes care of those within it. We get them to organize, create a board, and hold each other accountable.

The tires are already there! As it stands now, the people are trying to hold up the hillside and build homes on top of it. We could literally bulldoze it all down, saving tires and any other reusable materials, and cut into the hill. As for the rains, community planning will involve channeling all that rain water around the homes, preventing erosion. The rainwater would be collected in massive cisterns that can be used efficiently for the people’s needs. We can build individual homes, or long apartment style complexes. The homes we build will be thermoregulating themselves, and producing food as well.

We plan to address sanitation with a community style restroom. Right now we are exploring the uses of solar toilets along with humanure composting. This is one of the most important issues, and possibly, a culturally sensitive one. The people will have to decide what kind of sanitation system they would like.

Most important is our final goal of DETACHMENT. While building homes, we will be educating and training our replacements. It does not require a tremendous amount of skill to build these homes, just lots of work. We will train people how to build these homes so that when we eventually leave, the idea will continue to spread. People can take their housing, and their future into their own hands. We won’t be needed anymore.

These are REAL SOLUTIONS. We all know there are environmental and social issues joined at the hip that need to be addressed. I don’t know about you, but the majority of what I hear are complaints, and I’m over it. It’s time to take action, it’s time to solve problems.

Follow Us.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Imperial Beach's WiLDCOAST Receives Environmental Grant From California American Water

Funds will be used to restore and clean up Otay and Tijuana River Watersheds

San Diego, CA (Vocus) -- California American Water announced today that WiLDCOAST in Imperial Beach will receive funding through the Company's 2009 Environmental Grant Program. WiLDCOAST, an international non-profit agency that protects and preserves coastal ecosystems, will receive a $7,500 grant, which California American Water earmarked for community-based projects that improve, restore or protect watershed areas.

A panel of employee judges selected the winning grant proposals from a wide variety of organizations across the state, which were evaluated on such criteria as environmental need, innovation, community engagement and sustainability.

"Our Environmental Grant Program has been very successful in helping local organizations carry out meaningful, sustainable environmental initiatives year after year," said Rob MacLean, president of California American Water. "The grant recipients this year exemplify the type of environmental stewardship that we are proud to support."

WiLDCOAST is an international non-profit agency that protects and preserves coastal ecosystems by building grassroots support, conducting outreach and education campaigns and establishing protected areas. California American Water will grant the agency $7,500 for their cleanup and restoration projects targeting the Tijuana and Otay River watersheds.

Both rivers are vital to the San Diego community and both are the common target of illegal dumping and pollution. WiLDCOAST estimates that pollution in the Tijuana River is responsible for 80 percent of San Diego County's total beach closures every year.

WiLDCOAST will recruit and train local environmental stewards and initiate routine cleanup events and pollution monitoring and reductions activities in both watersheds.

"These rivers, which feed directly into the San Diego Bay and area beaches are in urgent need of help," said WiLDCOAST's acting executive director Fay Crevoshay. "With this grant, we will work to reverse the effects of decades of pollution and finally restore these vital waterways."

California American Water, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK), provides high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to more than 600,000 people. Founded in 1886, American Water is the largest investor-owned U.S. water and wastewater utility company. With headquarters in Voorhees, N.J., the company employs more than 7,000 dedicated professionals who provide drinking water, wastewater and other related services to approximately 15 million people in 32 states and Ontario, Canada. More information can be found by visiting

WiLDCOAST began its Clean Water Campaign in 2005 in response to the environmental and health impacts associated with pollution in the Tijuana River. The organization's work has influenced policy decisions at the local, state and federal levels, including the upgrade of the International Wastewater Treatment Plant, which discharges off Imperial Beach. In 2008, the Otay River Program was launched to increase community stewardship of the Otay River Valley.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

29th Annual US Open Sandcastle Competition

This weekend, July 18 & 19, Surfrider will have an outreach booth at the US Open Sandcastle Competition in Imperial Beach. It’s our first time at this event and we’re very excited to promote all of our campaigns and especially the No B.S. campaign. The Sandcastle Competition includes a street festival with over 140 vendors offering musical entertainment, food and arts and crafts. The Kids-N-Kastles Competition is held on Saturday afternoon while the official US Open Competition is on Sunday with $21,000 in prize money.

We’re in need of volunteers to help man the booth for both days. Shifts are listed below but any time you can spend at the booth would be greatly appreciated. Please email me if you’re interested in helping out ( It should be a fun event and also a great chance to pick up one of the very cool No B.S. t-shirts. We’ll have a fresh batch on hand Saturday morning. Thank you and hope to see you this weekend!

Shifts for both Saturday and Sunday:
9:30am - 12:00pm
12:00pm - 2:30pm
2:30pm - 5:00pm

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tijuana River Valley Recover Team Workshop - Meeting Notes

June 26, 2009

Dan Murphy and Sara Miles from Surfrider No B.S. campaign sat at the Border Action Team Table. There were multiple tables set up to discuss different issues. Border Action Team focused on sediment issues. Chris Peregrin from State Parks was sitting at our table as well as other representatives.

Group Updates:

Border Action Team (Estuary, URS-environmental services contractor)

The permit for the trash nets for Goat Canyon is almost complete. There will be one upper and one lower to be installed September 2009. Currently no Coastal Commission permits that need to be approved to work in that area. Their governing area stops before the Estuary coast. The $250,000 grant pertains to trash nets and may go to other items.

Need a grant for the channel improvements – there is currently a $200,000 grant through the EPA. Potential to use this grant money for study of sediment basins depositing sediment and where to deposit it (Is it safe to deposit on the beach?)

URS is characterizing sediment out of the area near Smuggler’s Gulch. The report (which is currently under review) will help with how to deal with sediment and whether it is suitable to use on the beach or should go to the landfill. Reports for best management practices for Goat Canyon and Smuggler’s Gulch pending as well as biological surveys for the impact of these BMPs. Search underway to determine locations for trash racks. Emptying the sediment and trash racks will be a year to year/storm to storm management situation with the goal of moving the sediment downstream while the trash catches upstream. Disposing of trash and tires at the basin - how much funding does the Estuary actually have?

Mary Salas office had a field study person at the Border Action Team Table.

Clean Up Team: (Coastal Conservancy, URS, Coast Keeper, Regional Water Board, County Parks, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Estuary, TRCC, City of SD Solid Waste Enforcement Agency)

Characterization study being done from border to estuary limits (Bob Scott/GIS is conducting the study, need to get his contact info). GIS completed looking at how much and the types of trash that are on the the surface. The public needs to be informed so there can be a focus on what areas of the valley should be targeted and how to get the trash out. GIS is doing test pits and borings this summer to test the physical and chemical make up to find out if the sediment is reusable or should go to the landfill. $700,000 approved for sediment and trash deposition study that has flexible guidelines and may be used for clean ups. The grant has strong support from Control Board and the board wants efforts like this to continue.

The issue of the timing of clean ups was addressed. First it depends on when the studies are complete and then identifying key locations. Next coordinate with border groups and set up a transfer station for when the trash is collected. Clean up efforts will target trapped, 10 year old sediment that will require a massive digging project. Part of the NOAA grant would be to do sweeps of the valley to pick up trash. All the groups that organize clean ups while well intentioned are interfering with bird nesting season and are risk for contaminants. Danielle from the Estuary volunteered to take on coordinating/educating people on this topic so people are safe and have permission, etc. Potentially make clean ups a seasonal event just like nesting and publicize the windows of opportunity for clean up volunteers.

City of SD is meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers about a $300,000 effort for clean up, need sponsor.

Restoration Team: (Fish and Game/Wildlife, SD Water Dept, Jeff Crooks/Estuary)

After sediment and trash are under control a plan is needed and groups need to come together and make a vision document. What should this process be? Partnerships with agencies involved in mitigation projects and teaming up with agencies that have jurisdiction in the river valley and overcome any points of conflict. Taking into account the cultural affects of digging/archeological sites. The goal for the group is that it sees how the ecosystem is working and track changes and help the ecosystem recover.

Binational Team: (SDSU, Wildcoast, Representative from the office of the Tijuana Secretary of Urban Development and Tijuana Public Services, San Diego Coast Keeper, EPA)

Four proposed projects:
1. $49,000 trash characterization study on Mexican side in response to work the recovery team has done, will be working with URS (that also works on US side) to maintain consistency.
2. Conservation Easements - on Mexican side, protect dumping hotspots and regulate and stop dumping of trash that comes back over border
3. Complement trash nets in Los Laureles south of the border by Urban Development Secretary and Estuary
4. $100,000 Tire tracking study - tracking tires used south of the border to see where they end up/back in the US

Tijuana will match funds for three of the projects: the trash net, tire tracking, trash characterization.

Beach nourishment in Playas de Tijuana - using sediment trapped in basins on the US side.

Tire shredder on Mexico side.

SB167 update: thru assembly onto appropriations committee, bill would allow waste board to more effectively deal with tires and help to eliminate the tires coming back to the US

The $990,000 grant to SWIA will go to pervious pavers, open spaces, tire relocation, roadways, bluff erosion, remove trash from estuary, need to track what is happening with the money/get updates from SWIA

Binational stragegies are keeping the trash at the source, helping Mexico have infrastructure, develop trash and tire recycling, mutually beneficial relationships and joint opportunities for Tijuana/San Diego, establish agreements, develop pilot projects, identify funding

Tijuana is trying to abate the problem with regard to trash collection which is currently not efficient. There are plans to build transfer stations closer to the neighborhoods, a landfill and transporting the trash by rail. Focus on outreach to the community members especially in the colonias and illegal urban developments. At some point there will be a 50 or 100 year storm event that will kill people and destroy infrastructure as there are waste water flows in almost every canyon. Tijuana is seeking from the mexican government certification for clean industry, environmental compliance and environmental tourism quality.

No B.S./Coalition July Events....

Thursday, July9th 7pm: No B.S./Coalition Monthly Meeting will be held at the Wildcoast office. Clay Clifton will be there discussing water testing/issues in the South Bay area.

Directions to Wildcoast, 925 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach, CA 91932, Phone: (619) 423-8665
From San Diego: Take the I-5 South, Exit on Palm Ave. West. Continue on Palm toward beaches. Turn Left onto Seacoast Drive. Our office is located at 925 Seacoast Drive, across the street from the pier at the corner of Seacoast and Evergreen (four story white building with blue trim).
From the San Ysidro U.S.: Mexico Border Crossing: Take the I-5 North, Exit on Palm Ave. West (left). Continue on Palm toward beaches. Turn Left onto Seacoast Drive. Our office is located at 925 Seacoast Drive, across the street from the pier at the corner of Seacoast and Evergreen (four story white building with blue trim).

Reminder......Saturday, July 11th 9am to noon is the Tijuana Estuary Second Saturday Volunteer Project which this month is Habitat Enhancement at Border Field State Park. Definitely a worthwhile way to spend the morning so check out for more details.

Thursday, July 16th 6:30-8:30pm:
The United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) has scheduled a public meeting of the USIBWC Citizens Forum on Thursday, July 16, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the Tijuana Estuary Meeting Room, 301 Caspian Way, Imperial Beach, CA 91932. The meeting will focus on stormwater, wastewater, and solid waste issues affecting the Tijuana River Valley. The purpose of the USIBWC Citizens Forum is to promote the exchange of information between the USIBWC and the community about Commission projects and related issues in San Diego County.

Sat & Sun, July 18th & 19th
: US Open Sandcastle Competition in Imperial Beach. Surfrider will have a booth at this event and we will definitely need volunteers to help out on both days for various shifts between 10am and 5pm. More details soon so mark your calendars. Thanks!

And check out this great video by Marty Benson!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Every Drop Counts

Felipe Guerrero adjusted a sprinkler at Morelos Park in Tijuana.
The park uses treated wastewater from the new Arturo Herrera Plant
for its irrigation needs.

TIJUANA — Amid birthday picnics, brisk morning strolls and visits to the botanical garden, visitors to Tijuana's largest public park might not notice the radical change that has taken place: The trees, plants and grass are being irrigated with treated wastewater.

After years of planning, Tijuana's water-reuse program was launched last month in the city's fast-growing eastern end. Every day, 470,000 gallons are piped to the sprawling Morelos Park, a green oasis surrounded by parched hillsides packed with small houses.

“For every drop of that recycled water that we use, that's one less drop that we have that we have to carry from the Colorado River,” said Hernando Durán, head of the Baja California Public Service Commission in Tijuana.

Although it will take years to develop, the program marks the start of what authorities say is an important effort to use treated wastewater in the city, reducing the city's dependence on the Colorado River, which is the source for 90 percent of the region's drinking water.

The project is the result of an effort by the state to expand sewage treatment in Tijuana. The aim is to clean up discharges into the ocean and eliminate the cross-border contamination that plagues San Diego beaches when it rains.

Named for the purple pipes that carry reclaimed water, the project is known as Proyecto Morado, or Purple Project. For now, it involves only a small portion of Tijuana's flow of treated wastewater, most of which is discharged into the Pacific Ocean. But by 2013, the state hopes to find ways to reuse as much as 20 percent of the treated effluent.

The construction of two new treatment plants in eastern Tijuana, one of which began operating in March, is central to the plan. Their operation not only launches the water-reuse project, but will serve to decrease the pressure on Tijuana's overburdened main sewage treatment plant at Punta Bandera. With the new plants' operation, the discharge that flows down the Tijuana River channel toward San Diego will also become cleaner.

While off to a modest start, Tijuana is one of few cities in Mexico exploring water reuse, said Jose Luis Castro, a Monterrey-based researcher at the Colegio de La Frontera Norte.

Other Mexican cities with water-reuse programs include Monterrey, Chihuahua and the Baja California capital of Mexicali, where the state utility sells untreated wastewater from its Zaragoza Treatment Plant to a thermoelectric plant, which treats the water and uses it in cooling towers.

Baja California's work on water-reclamation projects reflects the interest and hurdles faced by U.S. states and cities that also draw drinking water from the Colorado River. The city of San Diego has two reclamation plants and 80 miles of purple pipe, but it does not have enough irrigation customers to buy all the water that it can treat.

Until now, Tijuana has had several small water-reuse projects – the Real del Mar Development near Punta Bandera uses treated water in its landscaping, as does the Campestre Country Club. But opening the three-mile purple pipeline connecting Morelos Park to the new Arturo Herrera Plant is seen as the first step in a broader effort to find uses for treated water.

At full capacity, the Arturo Herrera Plant will treat the sewage of about 265,000 people to advanced secondary level, clean enough for irrigation. The state is building a similar but smaller plant, La Morita, near Tecate. It should be completed by the end of the year.

Until last month, Morelos Park relied on well water for its landscaping. Park officials say they have adapted easily to the change, and staff members say they hope to draw more water to expand the landscaped area.

“For our green areas, this is a magnificent thing,” said Alberto Palacio Bórquez, director of the park's nursery and landscaping, who toured the treatment plant with fellow employees.

Next year, the state expects to extend piping down the Tijuana River channel – where gravity carries it toward the city's Rio Zone and the international border – first for irrigation of public spaces, but potentially to sell to businesses.

In 2011, the public service commission plans to begin pumping a portion of the treated water to the Mesa de Otay district for use in school campuses, parks, traffic circles, sports facilities and industry.

But while applauding the efforts, some say not enough work has been done in securing uses for the water, and ways to deliver it.

“Who's going to pipe that water from where it is to the industrial parks? That's very costly,” said Oscar Romo, coastal training director at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve in Imperial Beach and a longtime activist in Tijuana sewage issues. In addition, he said, “You need to create a market, and the creation of that market is perhaps the biggest challenge.”

No matter what the reuse market, opening the plants spells important improvements for the coastlines of San Diego and Tijuana.

Baja California has also taken steps to make sure large discharges of treated water from the plants down the Tijuana River don't spill into the United States and harm the federally protected saltwater estuary in Imperial Beach. Mexico has spent $6 million to ensure that does not happen, said Doug Liden, an environmental engineer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in San Diego.

The state has built a system to capture the treated water before it can cross into the United States and pipe it for discharge into the ocean several miles south of the border.

Although cross-border flows have virtually stopped during dry weather, sewage-contaminated water from Tijuana has continued to hit the Tijuana estuary and San Diego beaches during and after heavy rainfall. But with the new plants, “even during storm events, you're going to have better-quality water, when it does cross the border,” Liden said.

By Sandra Dibble

Wastewater recycling may benefit both sides of the border - The Purple Project

Some of the treated water leaving the Monte
de los Olivos plant in Tijuana is used for irrigation
as part of Mexico's conservation plans.


470,000 gallons of wastewater treated at the new Arturo Herrera Plant are used daily to irrigate landscaping at Morelos Park.

Next year, officials plan to extend an 18-inch pipe to irrigate green spaces in the Rio Zone along the Tijuana River channel.

Plans call for building a pump station and pipeline in 2011 to carry water to the Mesa de Otay district for use in landscaping and industry.

Baja California is studying the possibility of piping the water to supply vineyards in the Guadalupe Valley.

The Purple Project results from upgrades to Tijuana's sewage system, which have opened new possibilities for reuse and are expected to lead to cleaner beaches on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

SOURCE: Baja California Public Service Commission in Tijuana