Saturday, February 28, 2009
A River Runs Through It
The San Diego River meanders gently–in places imperceptibly–from its origin near the historic town of Julian, alongside shopping malls and under cracked sidewalks to the mighty Pacific Ocean.
Humans have lived within a stone’s throw of the river for more than 8,000 years. The Kumeyaay tribe depended on it, and so did the early Spanish settlers. But in the last century, as rapid development degraded the river’s water quality and habitat, it became San Diego’s most overlooked resource.
“How many people living in San Diego today are aware that a 52-mile river runs through some of the most populous parts of their city?” said Matt Rahn, director of San Diego State’s Field Stations Program.
Attempting to restore the river’s central role, the field stations program is partnering with the San Diego River Conservancy and the San Diego River Park Foundation to enhance and preserve the San Diego River watershed.
In April, biologists from SDSU and UCSD’s High-Performance Wireless Research & Education Network (HPWREN) worked with partners in the conservancy and the foundation to install a high-speed, wireless sensor network that will provide remote monitoring of the watershed.
“This system will resemble the one we pioneered in our Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve,” Rahn explained. “It will assess the real-time effects of fire, landslide and chemical contamination or flooding. As a result, responders can react more quickly and effectively to such occurrences.”
Ultimately, SDSU and its partners in this project will maintain the largest such waterway monitoring network in the country to collect long-term, real-time data on water quality, flooding and changes in the ecosystem.
SDSU and the river conservancy are now planning a research center to support research, education and outreach programs involving the San Diego River.