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Dry Year Takes Toll On San Diego River

Above: A third year of dry conditions has caused low flow and poor water quality in the San Diego River.

Aired 12/26/13 on KPBS News.

A third year of dry conditions in San Diego is taking a toll on the San Diego River and many parts of the 52-mile-long waterway resemble a swampy pond.

A third year of dry conditions in San Diego is taking a toll on the San Diego River.

Many parts of the 52-mile-long waterway resemble a swampy pond: The water is perfectly still and there’s no flow to wash away overgrown plants that have created floating canopies.

Along the riverbank, willow and cottonwood trees that depend on the river for water are stressed.

Eventually the plants will decay, which will lower the river’s oxygen level and cause fish to die, said Rob Hutsel, executive director for the San Diego River Park Foundation.

"We’ve had less rain than we’ve had in several years," Hutsel said. "The water quality is the worst we’ve seen in at least five years if not eight years because of that low flow."

"Flow is really important to a river system because it puts oxygen back into it, and oxygen is important for fish and other things to live on,” he added.

Hutsel said one or two good rain storms could make a big difference in getting the river back on track.

Much of the complex river system is underground, Hutsel said. "It's got these large aquifers where the water goes under ground, and so you’re just seeing the very tip top of water and so it takes more water to fill that basin up so it begins to flow."

Hutsel said the river is also being impacted from San Diego’s increased water conservation and it's having to adapt to less water run-off from homes and businesses in surrounding communities.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 26, 2013 at 10:57 a.m. ― 3 years ago

On the bright side, there is more dry ground for camping.

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | December 27, 2013 at 6:07 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Be careful where you hike by the river. Monsters dwell down there.

( | suggest removal )