Bay Watcher


Photos and Story By Dave Good(Published in the May 2010 issue)

If you’ve ever looked down while walking around San Diego, you’ve probably noticed a cartoon dolphin asking you not to throw trash in his backyard.

“No dumping. I live downstream,” it pleads. It’s Jamie Ortiz’ job to make sure the dolphin’s wish comes true.

Ortiz is the marketing director for San Diego Coastkeeper, the region’s largest organization dedicated to protecting our coastal environment and waterways.

“We are not just focused on the ocean,” she says, “but also on the lakes and the creeks that channel inland pollution into the bays and ocean.”

Funded by grants and donations, San Diego Coastkeeper has been around since 1995. The nonprofit works with elected officials, businesses and educators to reduce sewage spills, increase water recycling and reuse, and develop initiatives to promote habitat conservation.

“One of the main things we are working on is the cleanup of San Diego Bay,” Ortiz says, “which was, at one point, one of the most toxic bodies of water in the nation.” After ten years of direct involvement, progress has been made but the work is far from over.

Another of Coastkeeper’s hot buttons is marine garbage. “There has been a lot of media attention recently about the big trap of debris that is gathering in our ocean,” Ortiz says.

Experts say the trash from our streets amasses in the circular currents of the North Pacific, clogging the water between Hawaii and California with an enormous pile of floating trash known as the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch or the Pacific Trash Vortex. Composed of untold billions of plastic particles from land-based waste, this toxic underwater dump poses significant danger to the environment and ultimately to humans-the plastic sludge ends up in the food chain and finds its way onto our plates.

“The majority of debris out there starts inland,” says Ortiz. “It’s stuff that people throw away on the beach or toss out of their car windows while driving.”

Join one of Coastkeeper’s bi-monthly beach clean-ups throughout the county, where volunteers often pick up more than 400 pounds of trash in just one Saturday morning.

Half Empty?

The state of San Diego’s water supply

In March, Mayor Jerry Sanders praised residents and businesses citywide for reducing San Diego’s water consumption by 12.6 percent compared to this time last year.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that our water supply has been dwindling-drought, reduced snow-pack and the subsequent diminished runoff have lowered the level of the Colorado River, this region’s primary source of potable water.

Can we maintain the water-conservation levels that the Mayor has congratulated us for? Only time will tell. This February, after all, was one of the wettest months we’ve had in years-2.28 inches of rainfall, compared to 3.02 inches for all of 2002.

For more information on water use, and tips on how to conserve, visit the City Drought Alert web page at