Stormwater Runoff Under Control at San Diego Surfing Beach

SAN DIEGO, California, June 12, 2011 (ENS) – A popular La Jolla surfing beach next to Scripps Institution of Oceanography is cleaner than it was a year ago after completion of a $4.9 million award-winning water pollution control project that has become a model for the state.

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board required the University of California, San Diego, where Scripps is based, to reduce the amount of excess irrigation water and other dryweather runoff that reaches the beach.

The water quality agency monitors water at Scripps as one of California’s 34 Areas of Special Biological Significance.

State regulators, too, required the university to reduce pollutants in its stormwater runoff.

To design the project, University designers collaborated with colleagues at the City of San Diego and San Diego Coastkeeper, a nonprofit environmental group that promotes stewardship of clean water and a healthy coastal ecosystem in San Diego County.

Now before the runoff reaches the beach, it travels through four swimming-pool-sized “media filters” consisting of a blend of dolomite, perlite, gypsum and crushed rock. Storm water flows down through the filter, where phosphorus, copper and other pollutants are absorbed, and petroleum products are broken down.

Native plants used in landscaping features called bioswales remove silt and pollution from surface runoff. By mimicking the natural environment, the bioswales do not require energy or mechanical equipment, making them ideal for any developed coastal area in California.

“I’m most impressed with the comprehensive approach on all fronts to eliminate dry-weather water runoff and the pollution from storm water runoff,” said Chiara Clemente, senior environmental scientist with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. “UC San Diego has become the model for protection of Areas of Special Biological Significance.”

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Public Works Association and the San Diego-area chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the university’s project with the 2011 “Project of the Year” and “Outstanding Award,” respectively.

“The main features the public notices are these visually appealing bioswales, walls and other attractive landscaping enhancements, but civil engineers are most impressed with the sophisticated system of water-diversion structures, pollution-prevention controls, and erosion and sediment controls covering more than 30 acres,” said Dan Goldberg, a civil engineer and Awards Committee chair for the American Public Works Association.

“The dry-weather flows of water, which have been an unwelcome part of that beach for years, are now gone,” he said.

Almost unnoticed to most visitors are shore improvements that work together as a system to remove pollutants from runoff water before it reaches the beach.

The sloping beach near Scripps is an international destination not just for surfers and kayakers, but also for snorkelers and scuba divers eager to observe hundreds of species of fishes such as the harmless leopard shark. Schools of the slender, strikingly patterned shark congregate in the shallow waters off Scripps from spring to autumn to feed on plentiful squid, octopus, crabs and other invertebrates and fish.

“Almost all the water runoff that had previously ended up on the beach untreated, is now passing through an elaborate filtration and pollution-control system,” said Garry MacPherson, director of environment, health, and safety at UC San Diego.

“This is meaningful to all Californians because this offshore Area of Special Biological Significance supports such a variety of aquatic life, including many unique species,” MacPherson said. The coastal area also is designated a Critical Coastal Area.

“The award-winning design developed for the Scripps area can also be applied to future campus projects to both reduce dry-weather runoff and more effectively and efficiently treat any stormwater that leaves the campus,” said Gary Matthews, vice chancellor of Resource Management and Planning.

He called the project “an outgrowth of UC San Diego’s dedication to water and energy conservation, pollution prevention, resource protection, and innovative technologies.”

“With the study of global climate change firmly rooted in the past, present and future of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the beach there is a perfect place to take steps locally to protect the environment,” said Matthews.

The university financed the effort with a $1.1 million grant from the State Water Resources Control Board, a $2.65 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $150,000 donation from the Miocean Foundation, and $1 million in campus funds.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography was also a key partner in the project. The project consultants were Nasland Civil Engineering and KTU+A Planning and Landscape Architecture, and MACTEC Engineering. Sheene Consulting handled grant administration, and the contractor was Western Rim Constructors, Inc.

Copyright Environment News Service,ENS, 2011. All rights reserved.