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San Diego Watersheds Get Poor Water Quality Marks

Photo by Erik Anderson

Contamination in water samples collected in San Diego County is revealed by a black light, March 10, 2015.

The lingering California drought is impacting water quality in San Diego's watersheds.

A new water quality survey finds the state's lingering drought is affecting the quality of fresh water in San Diego County.

Volunteers regularly survey the region's streams, lakes and rivers to understand the health of coastal waters, said Travis Pritchard, San Diego Coastkeeper's program director.

Pritchard said San Diego has water quality index scores for nine of the region's 11 watersheds.

Only four get fair marks, four are marginal and the Tijuana watershed has poor water quality.

Photo by Erik Anderson

The chart above details water quality scores

Those poor water quality marks will eventually affect what happens in the ocean.

"When beaches are closed to human contact a big part of that is because pollution is coming from our rivers," Pritchard said.

The region's low rainfall totals mean local streams and rivers aren't getting flushed out like they normally would, Pritchard said. That means pollution is building up.

"When you have water levels get really low, you tend to have warm, shallow, slow-moving waters. And this allows pollutants to really build up," Pritchard said.

That leads to explosive algae growth, drops in dissolved oxygen, and higher bacteria levels.

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