Scripps Scientists Discuss Tijuana River Valley in Upcoming Virtual Forum

Researchers will be talking about the current state and future vision of this region
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San Diego City Councilmember Vivian Moreno and Margaret Leinen, director of UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, will host a virtual forum on Feb. 25 called “Cross-Border Pollution: Discussing the Tijuana River Valley Crisis and Future Vision.” 

Councilmember Moreno’s district is home to the Tijuana River Valley and whose residents are directly impacted by the cross border pollution crisis. This event is an opportunity to share with her district the research underway that aims to better understand and address this critical issue. During the forum, several leading Scripps Oceanography researchers will address environmental concerns and current research in the Tijuana River Valley.

The cross-border San Diego South Bay-Tijuana region is the home to vibrant communities, recreational beaches, and more. For decades however, widespread water pollution has resulted in downstream health risks and economic impacts. The water quality issues come from many sources including sewage from Punta Bandera in Baja California, Mexico, and infrastructure failure in Tijuana that allows wastewater to drain into the Tijuana River Estuary. Scripps Oceanography has been conducting research in this region since 2002 after forming a partnership with the City of Imperial Beach and the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health. Today, Scripps scientists work hand in hand with federal, state, and local officials to understand and investigate pollution impacts to environmental and public health. 

Featured speakers from Scripps Oceanography will include: 

  • Clarissa Anderson, Executive Director of the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) at Scripps: SCCOOS grew from the initial effort in 2002 to measure and analyze bacteria levels in the water and is now a comprehensive ocean observing program that spans the entire Southern California Bight. Anderson’s team utilizes three surface current measuring antennas to monitor pollution levels in the region.
  • Falk Feddersen, Professor in the Integrative Oceanography Division: Fedderson co-led a 2015 experiment that released non-toxic dye into the water to track how pollution moves. This led to the development of an ocean wave and circulation numerical model for the San Diego-Tijuana region. This model allows scientists to evaluate how often and at what levels various coastal regions are impacted with wastewater contaminants.
  • Kimberly A. Prather, Director of the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment at UC San Diego: Starting in 2019, Prather led a project to analyze potential airborne bacteria in wastewater that enters the surfzone. With this information, researchers will be able to inform decisionmakers of public health impacts before, during and after storms. 

Even with the work Scripps has done in the Tijuana River Valley region, there is still more to be done to understand and mitigate these issues. The future vision that will be discussed in the webinar includes plans to improve infrastructure and atmospheric modeling systems; provide observations and modeling that can lead to real-time notifications when a hazardous event is occurring; collecting critical data to link real-time observations with specific health risks; and predictions of future health risks. 

A more extensive overview of past and current research Scripps scientists are doing in the Tijuana River Valley can be viewed here, and also in Spanish here. This free virtual webinar will take place on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. and you can register here to attend.

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