Tijuana River Valley Recovery


In 2009, responding to public complaints and concerns regarding trash, sediment, water pollution, and flooding in the Tijuana River, the San Diego Water Board convened the organizations that eventually formed the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team (Recovery Team). Since that time, the San Diego Water Board has led the Recovery Team and its steering committee of local, State, and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). By Resolution No. R9-2012-0030, the San Diego Water Board endorsed a multi-agency collaboration to address the issues in the Tijuana River Valley through a strategic approach – the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team Recovery Strategy: Living with the Water (Recovery Strategy). In 2014, the San Diego Water Board convened a binational summit to identify specific projects to advance through the Recovery Strategy and International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) Minute 320, then in development. In 2015, the Recovery Team also developed a Five-Year Action Plan that included these projects. Subsequently, the San Diego Water Board adopted another resolution, Resolution No. R9-2015-0035, which strongly endorsed and encouraged the immediate implementation of the Five-Year Action Plan. Those efforts were undertaken in good faith by the San Diego Water Board in preference to the use of its substantial regulatory authorities, including development of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), enforcement orders, and litigation at the time. The government agencies and NGOs participating on the Recovery Team steering committee submitted letters of commitment to work within the Recovery Team on that basis in 2015.

Although the Recovery Team has made substantial progress on several projects led by the City of San Diego and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the County of San Diego, and California State Parks, the flows of waste across the border continue largely undiminished. Local and State agency members of the Recovery Team continue to spend millions of dollars annually removing transboundary wastes. Private property owners, residents, visiting members of the public, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, and U.S. Navy facilities in Imperial Beach and Coronado continue to be impacted by unabated transboundary flows of waste. Large volumes of transboundary sewage, solid waste, and sediment continue to impact the Tijuana River Valley and estuary, as well as the communities of San Ysidro, Imperial Beach, and Coronado. The collaborative Recovery Team approach, while in some respects successful, has not been effective at materially changing the nature, timing, and volume of transboundary flows of wastes. Therefore, the San Diego Water Board chose to develop TMDLs for indicator bacteria and trash and to issue an investigative order to the U.S. Section of IBWC (USIBWC) for transboundary pollution monitoring and assessment. In addition, the San Diego Water Board, through California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, filed litigation against USIBWC in federal court for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit violations and other violations of the Clean Water Act. This is now a joint litigation case with the City of Imperial Beach, City of Chula Vista, City of San Diego, the Port of San Diego, California State Lands Commission, and Surfrider Foundation.

The following documents related to the Tijuana River Valley are available for review at the San Diego Water Board office. To request a file review, please contact the San Diego Water Board receptionist at (619) 516-1990 or by email at rb9_records@waterboards.ca.gov.

  • Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team Recovery Strategy: Living with the Water
  • Draft Spanish Version of Recovery Strategy
  • Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team Five-Year Action Plan
  • Summary of Resource Stewardship (U.S. Side of the Tijuana River Watershed)
  • Steering Committee Contact Information

Questions and comments regarding the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team may be directed to Melissa Corona at Melissa.Corona@waterboards.ca.gov.