The Tijuana River
A Binational Environmental Crisis
The Tijuana River sewage crisis has been raging for decades. It’s one of the most pressing environmental emergencies in the region. Southern California beaches are forced to close regularly due to pollution from the river, and Tijuana residents suffer the consequences of poor sewage and water infrastructure that puts their health at risk.
The U.S. and Mexico have a long history with this crisis that ultimately belongs to both countries. Our reporting series aims to reveal the root problems, possible solutions and the impact on the region’s land and people.
A giant pipe to the ocean is one of two main ways Tijuana sewage pollutes the coast. The other is the Tijuana River. These two spill points represent a choice regulators must make soon: Tackle the cause of the problem in Mexico, or its impacts in Southern California. Or somehow do both.
Mexican officials have claimed over the past few months that they have stopped spills in the Tijuana River and don’t need help from the feds on the other side of the border to fix the longstanding problem. Yet there’s still sewage flowing, and beaches are still closing and now there’s another problem.
The Mexican government says the water is theirs, at least before it crosses the border. And they’re exploring what to do with it. Who needs water from the Tijuana River the most, and who could take it in a region ruled by complex international treaties?
Two competing forces – one from the United States and another from Mexico – are rethinking the region’s oldest and dirtiest problem, imagining it instead as a moneymaking opportunity.
Though the results of a recently released water quality study of the Tijuana River are troubling, the real problem is that no one is keeping track of the river’s contents, past or present, on a regular basis.
San Diego 101: Know the Basics
San Diego 101 is a video series from VOSD made to educate San Diegans about some of the most important issues that shape our region. These videos explain the basics of U.S.-Mexico border relations.
This series is produced by Voice of San Diego in partnership with the Tijuanapress.com and with support from The Water Desk at the University of Colorado Boulder and The Pulitzer Center. Our binational, bilingual reporting and photojournalism series illuminates longstanding environmental issues that severely impact quality of life along the border.