San Diego Coastkeeper


Mission Statement

San Diego Coastkeeper protects and restores fishable, swimmable, and drinkable waters in San Diego County using a strategic blend of education, community engagement, science, and advocacy to address persistent and emerging threats to clean water.


Since 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper has been the region’s leading environmental nonprofit protecting and restoring the rivers, streams, bays, lagoons, wetlands, and coastal waters across San Diego County. We use a strategic blend of education, community engagement, science, and advocacy to tackle persistent and emerging threats to water quality, water supply, and ecosystem health, and to meet our goals and advance our mission. We believe that humans and the environment share a fundamental right to clean water.
For 25 years, San Diego Coastkeeper has worked to advance sustainable water quality and water supply solutions for the San Diego region. The organization was founded in 1995 with a staff of two and a goal to combat the chronic pollution of San Diego Bay that had transformed a once-thriving ecosystem into a highly toxic waterbody. Coastkeeper’s founders envisioned a cleaner, safer bay, and subsequently negotiated the cleanup of 143,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment. Since then, both our staff size and scope have grown. We are now a team of seven and protect and restore hundreds of miles of coastline, creeks, rivers, lagoons, wetlands, and bays across San Diego County. Today, we play a lead role in developing and implementing multi-benefit watershed practices that address persistent and emerging challenges for communities and wildlife that depend on clean water. Our legal experts identify pollution threats and engage polluters and decision-makers alike to work toward comprehensive solutions. Our education and outreach teams dedicate themselves to building a locally-informed conservation ethic in our emerging leaders, educators, youth, and communities. We bring sound data and locally-oriented expertise to conversations about water quality, water supply, conservation, and community engagement as we influence and inform decisions that impact the health of our watersheds, neighborhoods, and coast.
This strategic, multi-faceted approach to our region’s most pressing pollution, environmental degradation, and water scarcity issues has yielded powerful success stories across all our program areas. Major organizational accomplishments over our 25-year history have led to significant improvements in San Diego’s water quality and stronger protections for our coastal watersheds and marine waters. Our work with the City of San Diego to improve sewage and urban runoff policies led to a 90 percent reduction in sewage spills and a 77 percent decrease in beach advisories, enabling surfers, swimmers, and families to enjoy more days in the water without risking their health. We have engaged tens of thousands of volunteers at more than 650 cleanups, resulting in the removal of hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash from our coast, canyons, and communities. We successfully advocated to establish state-level protections for 15 percent of Southern California coastal waters in marine protected areas, which were implemented in 2012 and preserve critical marine habitats and biodiversity. From 2008 to 2018, we ran California’s largest volunteer water quality monitoring program, which trained more than 1,500 citizen scientists to monitor the health of the county’s rivers and streams, and created a community of informed individuals empowered with first-hand knowledge and hands-on experience to advocate for our most overlooked waterways. Since 2003, we have provided water and climate science education to grades K-12, and have educated more than 16,000 students and nearly 600 teachers over the last five years alone, helping foster a new generation of empowered, informed community members ready to take active roles in designing and implementing solutions to environmental challenges. Furthermore, we have engaged over 30 industrial and government entities to reduce polluted stormwater discharges and come into compliance with the Clean Water Act, which has measurably improved regional water quality.

Program Details

San Diego Coastkeeper is known as San Diego County’s water quality watchdog, and we advance the protection of clean water across San Diego County. We combine community education, data-driven advocacy, and legal action to protect and restore fishable, swimmable, drinkable water in San Diego County.
Marine debris plagues the San Diego coastline causing harm to children, swimmers, surfers, beaches, the ocean, and local wildlife. In order to tackle this persistent problem, San Diego Coastkeeper hosts 24-50 cleanups each year with community partners. Volunteers engage in direct environmental stewardship and have an immediate positive impact on our beach environment by removing trash before it infiltrates our coastal waters. At each cleanup, volunteers record the types, amount, and weight of trash found throughout the cleanup, which allows us to analyze the state of San Diego beaches each year. Additionally, we use these data to educate the public and local businesses about trash in San Diego County, and influence policy decisions that help prevent trash from reaching our beaches and coastline, and benefit our water and environment. We also educate the cleanup volunteers about marine debris, its harmful impacts, and prevention strategies including behavior changes and single-use plastic and waste reduction.
In 2018, more than 8,860 community volunteers removed more than 165,200 items of trash, weighing 11,530 pounds, from along San Diego County’s beaches and coastal areas. The primary types of debris found include plastics, glass, metal, Styrofoam, and cigarette butts, all of which negatively impact the health of our waters, coastline, beaches, and marine and aquatic wildlife.
San Diego Coastkeeper believes that environmental education is the basis of environmental stewardship. We will train the next generation of leaders through our environmental education program and help them become informed community members for the protection of our marine and coastal environments today and in the future. We provide hands-on, inquiry-based K-6 grade water and climate science curriculum to teachers and students to learn about local water quality, local aquatic and marine habitats and ecosystems, pollution issues and prevention strategies, ocean conservation, and environmental stewardship. This curriculum meets state standards and is available to all educators at no cost. In 2018, we educated more than 2,600 students, teachers, families, and community members with this water and climate science curriculum.
San Diego Coastkeeper brings an expert voice to regional policymaking, advocates for long-term pollution reduction strategies, and provides community education. With unparalleled credibility and partnerships, we are positioned as regional leaders in advocating for long-term sustainable water management and multi-benefit solutions to our region’s water quality issues and improving watershed health.
We continue to advocate for pollution reduction, improved watershed health, and advancement of stormwater capture and wastewater reuse projects. These advocacy efforts lead to implementation of practices that reduce polluted discharges into our inland and coastal waters, increase water security, improve water quality, and enhance natural habitats. In addition, this work will help advance smart and sustainable permits, regulations, and policies that will reduce pollution from industrial, municipal, and government sources and ensure discharges achieve water quality standards. By promoting sustainable stormwater and wastewater capture, treatment, and reuse projects as viable methods of addressing pollution issues, we will continue to advance regional policies and projects that support improved water quality and watershed health.

Primary Issue
Secondary Issue
2825 Dewey Road, Suite 207
San Diego, CA 92106
United States
Social Media Links

Supporting Members