San Diego Watersheds

Protecting San Diego’s Precious Natural Resources

The City of San Diego is home to six major watersheds – land areas that channel rainfall to local waterways and the ocean. Healthy watersheds provide clean drinking water, productive fisheries and outdoor recreation. Watershed conditions heavily influence the health of local waterways because pollutants can wash off from the land to the water and cause substantial harm.

What is a Watershed?

Watersheds are land areas that funnel water to a common low point – usually a stream, lake, river, or out to the ocean. The chart below shows how rainfall flows down from areas of higher elevation following the natural shape of the land.

Find Your Watershed

Watersheds of San Diego

San Dieguito River Watershed

San Dieguito River

This watershed extends from the Volcan Mountains near Julian to the main outlet at the San Dieguito Lagoon and Pacific Ocean. The lagoon is sensitive to pollutants and suffers occasional oxygen depletion due to tidal flushing.

Los Peñasquitos

Covering about 100 square miles, this watershed begins in the foothills east of Highway 67 and funnels rainwater west to the Pacific Ocean. This ecosystem supports diverse fauna and flora that is especially sensitive to pollution.

Los Peñasquitos Watershed
Mission Bay & La Jolla Watershed

Mission Bay & La Jolla

This watershed drains an area of 67 square miles and contains some of the more intensely urbanized areas of the county, including Clairemont, La Jolla and Pacific Beach. It’s also home to Mission Bay Park – the largest man-made aquatic park in the country.

San Diego River

Starting near Santa Ysabel in east San Diego County, this watershed funnels rainwater west to the El Capitan Reservoir, and through Lakeside, Santee and Mission Valley. Home to Mission Trails Regional Park, which provides habitat for many endangered species.

San Diego River Watershed
San Diego Bay Watershed

San Diego Bay

This watershed serves a population of about one million and includes eight different cities and unincorporated San Diego County. It also includes four major water supply reservoirs that provide important habitat and recreational opportunities.

Tijuana River

The most severely impacted watershed by pollution in San Diego County with two-thirds of it residing in Mexico. It is classified as an impaired watershed by the State Water Resources Control Board due to water-quality problems.

Tijuana River Watershed