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The urbanized areas around San Diego Bay and throughout the San Diego Bay Watershed require continual efforts to reduce or eliminate sources of pollution that can be carried by rainfall runoff to the bay.


a storm water runoff channel

Stormwater Management

The urbanized areas around San Diego Bay and throughout the San Diego Bay Watershed require continual efforts to reduce or eliminate sources of pollution that can be carried by rainfall runoff to the bay. The Stormwater Management Program of the Environmental Services Department is a major element of the Port of San Diego's commitment to preventing, reducing, and eliminating the discharge of polluted stormwater into San Diego Bay.

This picture illustrates the "first flush" into Chollas Creek from a few years ago. This is the result of the season's first rain. All of the big visible trash is the tip of the iceberg -- what you're not seeing are all of the microscopic pollutants such as bacteria, grease, oil, metals, pesticides and fertilizers.



Stormwater Management Program

Stormwater runoff is a significant source of pollutants to the Bay. Pollutants such as trash, litter, sand, sediment, petroleum products leaking from motor vehicles, heavy metals in the dust from motor vehicle brake pads and diesel exhaust, animal feces, excess fertilizers and pesticides, and others are carried to the Bay by urban runoff as a result of rain or excessive irrigation, or other sources of water in the urban environment. The major inputs of stormwater to San Diego Bay include the Sweetwater River, Otay River, Switzer Creek, Chollas Creek, Paradise Creek, and all the surface runoff from downtown San Diego and other urbanized areas discharged through approximately 200 storm drain outlets.

There are over 700 tenant leases and subleases in the Port tidelands, and the Environmental Services Department works with these tenants to prevent polluted storm water from enter San Diego Bay. In addition to assisting tenants, the Environmental Services Department is responsible for implementing appropriate Best Managment Practices and for monitoring the quality of stormwater runoff from the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, the National City Marine Terminal, and the Cruise Ship Terminal. The Environmental Services Department also works with the Port General Services Department and Engineering Department to maintain the portions of the storm drain system that are owned by the Port. 


Click here to download the employee training record

For additional information on stormwater issues across the State of California and the nation, see:


Jurisdictional Runoff Management Program (JRMP)

The Port has updated its Jurisdictional Runoff Management Program (JRMP) in accordance with the requirements of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) Order No. R9-2013-0001, as amended by Order No. R9-2015-0001 (NPDES Permit #CAS0109266, Municipal Permit).

The JRMP addresses the discharge of pollutants and urban runoff flow to the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) to the maximum extent practicable (MEP). The JRMP focuses on three major phases of urban development including development planning, the construction, and the existing development or existing use phases as well as illicit discharges and connections.

The Port JRMP document serves as an informational document that provides an overall account of the program to be conducted by the Port during the five-year life of the Municipal Permit. The Port JRMP document has been developed to meet the conditions of the Municipal Permit and to assist the Port in addressing the highest and focused priority water quality conditions identified in the San Diego Bay Watershed Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP), as appropriate. The San Diego Bay WQIP and other watershed-related information are located on the Project Clean Water website.

The JRMP program’s focus is on controlling discharges from upstream sources and areas within the Port jurisdictional boundary to the MS4 that the Port owns and operates. The program’s overall goals are to achieve receiving water quality improvements and contribute to watershed efforts to meet the San Diego Bay WQIP goals for highest and focused priority water quality conditions, as appropriate. The JRMP utilizes Port-specific activities as well as watershed-based strategies. The main emphasis of the program is education. The programs described herein are effective as of June 27, 2015.

Overview - San Diego Bay Watershed

What is a watershed?

A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that drains from the surface goes into the same place or common body of water. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. They cross county, state, and national boundaries.

San Diego Bay Watershed

The San Diego Bay Watershed encompasses a 415 square mile area that extends more than 50 miles to the east - all the way to the Laguna Mountains. A large portion of the watershed land area lies north of the border with Mexico and south of Interstate 8. The watershed is comprised of three smaller watersheds: Pueblo San Diego, Sweetwater, and Otay. The major water courses feeding San Diego Bay include the Sweetwater River, the Otay River, Chollas Creek, Paleta Creek, Paradise Creek, and Switzer Creek.

San Diego's Watershed (PDF Map)

The San Diego Bay watershed transects all or portions of seven cities (San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, Coronado, Lemon Grove, and La Mesa), along with unincorporated areas of the County of San Diego, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, and the Port of San Diego. Nearly half of the population of San Diego County lives and works in the San Diego Bay Watershed. Most of these people live and work in close proximity to San Diego Bay itself —certainly one of the finest natural resources in the region, the State, and the nation.

Watershed management planning involves the identification of issues and concerns that are related to the watershed in which they occur, rather than the jurisdiction in which they are found. Watershed management planning is based on the recognition that problems that may originate upstream and are generally carried down-stream by the flow of water.

For more information on the San Diego Bay watershed and local watershed planning efforts, visit Project Clean Water.

Total Maximum Daily Loads

What is a TMDL?

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is a "pollution budget" for a water body (such as a stream, creek, bay or lagoon). It sets limits on the amount of pollution that a stream or other water body can tolerate and still maintain water quality standards.TMDLs require an assessment of priority issues and actions needed to restore water quality. TMDLs are issued on a watershed basis, involving multiple government agencies and other groups.

San Diego Bay Watershed TMDLs

The Regional Water Quality Control Board has adopted several TMDLs for the San Diego region. The TMDLs in the San Diego Bay watershed include:

Chollas Creek

Shelter Island

  • Dissolved Copper: Shelter Island Yacht Basin Dissolved Copper TMDL (Adopted 2005)
  • Indicator Bacteria TMDL: Project II - Baby Beach in Dana Point Harbor and Shelter Island Shoreline Park in San Diego Bay (adopted 2008)
  • Learn more about the the Port's efforts to reduce copper pollution through the Copper Reduction Program