Effective conservation and management of our region’s water resources are critical to sustaining San Diego’s growing population of 3.3 million residents.

As climate impacts – such as intensified rain events, flooding, sea-level rise, coastal erosion and severe droughts — force San Diegans to adapt to the rapidly changing environment, actions that build holistic water resilience are needed more than ever. This is particularly true for those communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

San Diego County faces challenges to both water quality and water supply. Along San Diego’s coasts, for example, stormwater pollution continues to degrade water quality. Urban runoff is an ongoing infrastructure issue impacting the region’s complex system of watersheds. Protecting our beaches from urban runoff would prevent residents from exposure to harmful bacteria and pathogens while yielding economic benefits such as potentially generating over 200,000 jobs and an estimated $35 million annually.

Moreover, as the Colorado River water supply becomes increasingly less reliable, necessitating cuts for Western states, water conservation efforts become more critical to support.

Rain barrel and stormwater community education event

Growing Philanthropic Giving to Address Climate Change

In 2021, ClimateWorks estimated total philanthropic giving by foundations and individuals globally grew to $810 billion, of which upwards of $12.5 billion was invested in climate change mitigation. This means climate investments made up only 1.5 percent of total philanthropic giving in 2021.

Over the past few years there has been an increasing emphasis on collaboration between sectors to address the increasing impacts of climate change. San Diego Foundation, and philanthropy in general, can play a significant role in ensuring local efforts have the capacity and resources needed to advance their critical climate work. By developing funder partnerships, we can help increase investments in climate action and build a resilient, thriving future for our region.

Building Regional Water Resilience – San Diego Foundation’s Climate Initiative

Tackling climate change requires an unprecedented level of cooperation and commitment from every sector, from public and private agencies to San Diego’s diverse communities and leaders. The SDF Climate Initiative was established to provide philanthropic leadership and investment in efforts that move the region towards a more sustainable path of economic growth and a higher quality of life for all San Diegans.

Since 2015, our Climate Initiative has partnered with key funders to engage local stakeholders at the intersection of water, climate change and equity. Through these efforts, SDF has leveraged more than $1.5 million toward the improvement of San Diego’s water systems.

Investing in Climate & Water Resilience

  • Borrego Valley Stewardship Council – $50,000
  • Climate Science Alliance – $50,000
  • Environmental Center of San Diego – $36,000
  • Groundwork San Diego – Chollas Creek – $50,000
  • San Diego Coastkeeper – $50,000
  • San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative – $40,000
  • Surfrider Foundation – $50,000

Partnering to Increase Impact

Rain barrels

As part of our strategy to deepen investments in local water resilience projects, we collaborated with a fellow philanthropic organization, Resources Legacy Fund (RLF), and discovered shared goals with its Land-Sea Connection program that was funded by the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment. Through our collaboration, including funding provided by RLF, we were able to increase support for two key programs that are increasing water resilience, including:

Climate Science Alliance

Total combined funding support amounted to $75,000 towards Climate Science Alliance’s Water Wisdom Pathways Program, an initiative that invites individuals from Tribal communities from across Southern California to apply for support in launching or expanding a career focused on the climate-water-drought-fire nexus and climate-informed land stewardship. The funding will increase the scale and impact of the initiative, and identify potential riparian restoration projects, through a network of Tribal and non-Tribal partners leading equitable and inclusive natural and cultural resource restoration efforts as part of a larger goal to revitalize Tribal stewardship, health and wellness.

Groundwork San Diego – Chollas Creek

Total combined funding support amounted to $80,000 toward stormwater-related water conservation/water capture education and information to homeowners, renters and multi-family housing managers in Webster and Southcrest, two Communities of Concern in the Chollas Creek Watershed. Groundwork will facilitate community self-advocacy through (1) community surveys to inform new City Stormwater Department water conservation/water capture Best Management Practices rebate policies, and to prioritize City stormwater infrastructure program improvements in project area communities; and (2) community engagement in the City of San Diego’s public hearings to inform stormwater budgets and policies.

By combining our resources, SDF and RLF were able to make two larger grant investments in San Diego’s communities, totaling $381,000 invested in climate-water resilience in 2022.

Collaborative funding not only allowed us to increase the funding for programs that have an on-the-ground impact, but it increased the pool of Tribal and Tribal-trained practitioners who will engage in natural resource restoration from that perspective at a time when Tribal-led conservation is finally being recognized for its balance and effectiveness at a critical moment in history. At the same time, by sharing proposals across philanthropic organizations, we were able to save grantees time, energy and resources that are better spent serving their communities.

About RLF’s Land-Sea Connection Initiative

The Land-Sea Connection (LSC) program, launched in 2017, works to advance the long-term health and resilience of California watersheds by promoting more effective local and state policies and conservation programs; supporting high-value, on-the-ground conservation efforts; and helping secure equitable and sustained public funding to support community needs. The LSC program, funded by the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, seeks to improve stewardship, and improve watershed health. In 2022, LSC funding in the San Diego region totaled $200,000.

About the SDF Climate Initiative

Since 2006, the San Diego Foundation Climate Initiative has provided leadership and philanthropic investment to create a more sustainable path toward economic growth and a higher quality of life for San Diegans. The initiative advances science-based, collaborative development of local policies and programs that reduce our region’s polluting emissions and help us adapt and prepare to minimize local impacts from climate change.

Learn more about the Climate Initiative.