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San Diego Panel Discusses Stormwater Solutions Ahead Of Rains

Above: San Diego leaders and environmentalists gathered at the San Diego Foundation in Point Loma for a panel discussion on stormwater pollution and prevention, February 25, 2014.

Aired 2/26/14 on KPBS News.

After months of dry conditions, San Diego is expected to get four days of rain starting Wednesday night.

After months of dry conditions, San Diego is expected to get four days of rain starting Wednesday night. Ahead of the storms, San Diego leaders and environmentalists gathered Tuesday in Point Loma to discuss ways to capture and treat stormwater pollution as part of an effort to meet strict new regulations.

The forecasted heavy rains have the potential to make a dent in San Diego’s drought with up to 2 inches of rain expected along the coast and 3 to 5 inches in the inland valleys.

But along with heavy rain comes the threat of toxins, sewage and trash flowing through storm drains and ending up in the river, bay and ocean.

San Diego County Department Of Health

2012 Beach Health Breakdown

"When you’re in a drought, you don’t think so much about the importance of having stormwater regulations, but once it starts raining, obviously there is runoff and that pollutes our various water sheds," said Lani Lutar, executive director of Equinox Center, an environmental research group and organizer of the panel discussion.

Storm pollution has been a growing issue for decades and poses a serious threat to people and ecosystems.

County water regulators last year approved strict cleanup regulations. The Regional MS4 Permit requires local governments across San Diego County to reduce pollutants in storm drains, monitor clean-up results, and take action when goals aren't met.

Unlike previous permits in place since 1990, municipalities will be held accountable to reach clean water goals by using their own discretion to meet the mandated cleanup measures.

Lutar said stakeholders are working to reach the mandate with cost-effective solutions.

"If we don’t find ways to reduce the cost then that takes away from money that goes to public safety, to fixing our roads to ensuring that we have libraries open to the public," Lutar said. "They’re talking about billions of dollars throughout the region that will need to be spent over the next decade addressing this complicated issue."

Some solutions include installing storm water drain filters, using permeable street pavement materials and planting more vegetation to soak up the rain.

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