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April 23, 2013

New Binational Agreement Underway to Reduce Trash and Sediment in the Tijuana River Watershed

by Paloma Aguirre

On Wednesday April 17, the International and Boundary Water Commission and its Mexican Counterpart CILA (Comisión Internacional de Límites y Aguas) convened the first binational meeting to begin discussions to develop a new binational treaty minute  to the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty, to reduce the trans-border flow of trash, sediment, and wastewater from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico into San Diego, California, United States.

Representatives from key stakeholder agencies at the city, state and federal level from both sides of the border along with NGO’s and members form the academic sector met to discuss common-ground areas of priority to begin to address the monumental task of reducing trash, sediment and water quality in the Tijuana River Watershed.

WILDCOAST alongside members from the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team, an interagency working group working to address trash and sediment in the Tijuana River Valley presented to the Mexican delegation proposed solutions to address cross-border pollution impacts to the lower portion of the Tijuana River Watershed- the Tijuana River Valley, Estuary and Pacific Ocean shoreline.

WiLDCOAST discussed  the need to address unseasonal cross-border flow from the recently built sewage treatment plants in Tijuana. This unseasonal flow is caused by treated effluent that is being discharged into the main river channel due to insufficient infrastructure for reuse such as irrigation or other beneficial uses. This flow when not captured by a diverting system that re-directs it south of the border preventing it from crossing the border, can impact beach water quality year round in border region beaches such as Imperial Beach and Playas de Tijuana.

Members from key agencies in Baja California also shared their perspectives on how to address sediment and tire isues in the watershed and gave a report on a number of financial investments they have made so far to address these issues.

Additionally, Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental, representing a number of local NGO's including WiLDCOAST, Colectivo Chilpancigo, Tijuana Calidad de Vida and Pronatura gave a presentation on the NGO's perspective and the many community-driven efforts currently underway to address trash, water quality and habitat restoration in the watershed.

Finally both the IBWC and CILA agencies agreed to convene the next meeting later in the fall to continue these crucial discussions.