Storm Water Department Highlight
With the latest rash of rainy weather, it’s fitting that we highlight Storm Water, the department responsible for protecting ocean and bay water quality for the citizens of San Diego. You may be surprised to know that the department wasn’t created until July 2008. Up until then, the Pollution Prevention Division and Operations & Maintenance Division were housed in other departments. The Pollution Prevention Division has always been tasked with reducing pollutants in urban runoff and storm water, but until 2008, never had a permanent home. This innovative divisional merge came about in order to be more effective in addressing the changing regulations and tightening of runoff control.
The department has approximately 120 employees that include biologists, planners, engineers, code compliance officers, public information officers and administrative staff. Although Storm Water has a workforce with diverse responsibilities and skills, the entire staff share the same ultimate goals, to protect lives and property, and reduce pollutants in our water ways.
During the recent storms, the department responded to many calls from the public and often worked around the clock (literally) to address the various emergencies due to accidents and flooding. Although Storm Water has reacted swiftly in times of emergencies, they have also been instrumental in implementing proactive measures, such as long range planning, and working with state and federal regulators on storm water policy. For example, in 2009, staff worked diligently to prepare the Tijuana River Valley for the rainy season that is now upon us. The department, along with an outpouring of local constituents, spoke at City Council meetings to express concerns over water quality in that region’s watershed. Storm Water credits their success to the number of residents who took the time to speak in support. In response, the Council issued the necessary permits to allow Storm Water crews to clear the channel in advance of the rain.
The department has also created a pollution prevention campaign called Think Blue, in order to educate the public on their role in reducing pollutants in our beaches and bays. Each year, the program reaches more than 1.2 million residents, 70,000 businesses and numerous government agencies working in the City limits. In addition, City staff are educated on storm drain collection systems, the pollutants that cause beach closures and steps that can be adopted both at work and home to improve the region’s water quality.
Although Storm Water is one of the newest departments in the city, it has quickly become a leader in urban runoff control not only locally, but at both the state and federal level. Especially during this most recent bout of wet weather, it is comforting to know there is a group of hard working individuals who are committed to protecting water quality in San Diego. MEA is proud to represent the dynamic and committed employees in the Storm Water Department. Thank you for all you do!
Special thanks to Jennifer Nichols Kearns for her assistance and department profile.