Hi, my name is Gemma Luther and I am interning for CERF this summer monitoring water quality. This past week I took a walk along the Escondido Creek bike path to find a monitoring access point and get a sense of this part of the Creek and its tributaries. While there was little to no trash in the Creek, I was appalled by the green layer of algae that seemed to coat the bottom of the concrete-lined channel and the amount of sediment build-up along the sides. Both of these are strong visual indicators that the Creek receives excess nutrients and sediment, likely from prohibited discharges. The excess nutrients can trigger sudden and rapid blooms of plants, bacteria, and algae that are harmful to the aquatic environment. While this is not uncommon, it’s also not acceptable. Nutrients occur naturally, but an influx of nutrients into water bodies such as Escondido Creek comes from human activities and sources. Two of the major sources of nutrients are fertilizers and soaps which enter water bodies as runoff from storm drains due to over irrigation. Along Escondido Creek, storm drains were flowing into the Creek, indicating potential over irrigation upstream since it hadn’t rained recently. The Clean Water Act (CWA) prohibits these types of non-storm (rain) water flows.
So what can we do to fix this? First and foremost, the quality of impaired water bodies in San Diego needs to be more closely monitored so that the CWA can be properly enforced in order to protect our clean drinking water supplies, water recreational activities, and wildlife. In addition to programmatic changes, as individuals we can take small steps that make a big difference. At home, minimize use of fertilizers and check for outdoor leaks and overwatering. Better yet, replace lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping. Instead of washing your car at home, take it to a car wash where the soapy water can be conserved, recycled, and contained onsite. These small changes limit the amount of nutrients and other pollutants entering water bodies.
This summer, I will be doing my part to try to fill in water quality monitoring gaps in order to help inform CWA enforcement and policies. Check back soon for updates!
About Gemma: I am an incoming Senior at the University of Miami majoring in Marine Science and Biology with a minor in Ecosystem Science and Policy. I was born and raised in San Diego and grew up with a large appreciation for the ocean. I hope by doing water monitoring I am able to help fill gaps in data so the Clean Water Act goals of fishable, swimmable waters can be attained.
Fun Fact: My favorite marine mammal is the vaquita and is the reason I am interested in going into environmental policy!