Exploring Tijuana River Water Quality

By Alyssa Johnson |  San Diego State University

February 5, 2013


The Tijuana River courses through 1,750 square miles of southern California and Mexico. Its impacts on surrounding border communities have shifted over the years. Beginning as a man made river, the water has become a depository for waste and sewage since the 1950s. Treatment plants mitigate many harmful toxins and pollutants. The fact remains; the watershed is overwhelmed with chemicals, sediment, waste and garbage during heavy rain flow. Contamination of water through sewage is a pressing concern for border area residents. As the city of Tijuana grows in population, their lack of infrastructure and inadequate water treatment facilities pose a threat to watershed residents on both sides of the border. The primary threat is pathogenic contamination.

A coliform bacterium is a component of human waste, which indicates the presence of other pathogens in the water. With direct contact, people are at risk for illness such as Hepatitis A, giardia, E. coli infection and SARS. Data from the EPA shows high levels of coliform from February of 2003, 2008 and 2009. In addition, each year had high precipitation levels. The South Bay Treatment Plant in San Ysidro treats 25 million gallons daily. The plant functions during dry conditions, yet surpasses its capacity during the rainy season by millions of gallons. Untreated water flows through the Tijuana River and estuary, eventually meeting the Pacific Ocean.

This story provides an inside look into the water quality of the Tijuana River and how both sides of the border are addressing this environmental issue. See the website for full details >>

This entry was posted by Amy Schmitz Weiss.

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