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Coastkeeper Reports Low Water Quality In San Diego County

Photo caption: A map from San Diego Coastkeeper indicates four San Diego County watersheds w...

Photo credit: San Diego Coastkeeper

A map from San Diego Coastkeeper indicates four San Diego County watersheds were in fair condition in 2015, four were "marginal," and the Tijuana River was rated "poor."

The nine major watersheds in San Diego County had unusually low water quality in 2015 for the second year in a row, according to a new report.

The nine major watersheds in San Diego County had unusually low water quality in 2015 for the second year in a row, according to a report released Tuesday by the San Diego Coastkeeper.

The continuing drought may be worsening inland water quality, while runoff pollution remains a serious problem, the report says.

"Our inland waters empty to the ocean," said Meredith Meyers, the group's laboratory coordinator. "These inland water quality problems directly impact the water quality of our beaches, too, making them less safe to swim and fish."

Volunteers with the group regularly take samples for testing from watersheds like the San Luis Rey, San Diego, Sweetwater and Tijuana rivers. Four were in fair condition last year, four more were called "marginal," while the Tijuana River was rated "poor."

Coastkeeper found elevated levels of fecal bacteria — from animal and human waste — which can result in staph infections, earaches and eye infections. Inland waters carry the pathogens to the ocean, putting both swimmers and coastal fish populations at risk, according to Coastkeeper.

"Rain, wind and storm drains bring trash and toxic runoff to our inland waters where it travels straight to the ocean," Meyers said. "Even pollution that begins miles away from the coast can reach the Pacific, where it harms fishing populations and our coastal wildlife."

Coastkeeper also reported that its volunteers found more sites in 2015 with water levels too low for testing than in any prior year.

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