San Elijo Lagoon is the terminus of Escondido Creek Watershed

San Elijo Lagoon is downstream from Escondido Creek, and is the terminus of the Escondido Creek Watershed.

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A watershed is a drainage basin where water flows downhill into creeks and rivers, and eventually out to a larger body of water, such as an ocean.


The Escondido Creek Watershed extends approximately 28 miles from its headwaters in Bear Valley, east of Lake Wohlford, through the City of Escondido, through unincorporated areas including Harmony Grove/Elfin Forest, and Rancho Santa Fe, through Olivenhain and the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach, ultimately through San Elijo Lagoon and out to the Pacific Ocean. The watershed covers approximately 54,112 acres in area and is long and narrow, with a prominent widening to the north at Reidy Creek.

Understanding our watershed is key to protecting important resources, such as water quality. As water travels along the surface of the ground and into creeks, it picks up pollutants from our yards (fertilizers), streets (oil, grease), and walkways (trash, animal waste) and carries these pollutants downstream, where they eventually end up in lagoons and beaches.  When you consider the extent of our watershed, you can see how the choices we make up in Escondido will impact water quality and quantity all the way downstream to San Elijo Lagoon. 

That’s why, in 2002, Escondido Creek Watershed Alliance (ECWA) was formed to facilitate cohesive watershed planning and management.  An updated ECWA Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2008 to include four local water districts for improved watershed planning. Signers to the MOU are the cities of Escondido, Encinitas, and Solana Beach, the County of San Diego, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, San Dieguito Water District, San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, Santa Fe Irrigation District, The Escondido Creek Conservancy, and San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy.

Members of ECWA work together to:

  • Restore, enhance, and conserve natural resources

  • Prevent pollution and enhance water quality

  • Support responsible and sustainable development of water resources; and

  • Promote coordinated education, outreach and passive recreation.


Members of ECWA meet regularly to discuss watershed issues and to accomplish goals established in the Escondido Creek Watershed Restoration Action Strategy. One of the goals outlined in the Restoration Action Strategy is to protect Escondido Creek by establishing a blue-line preserve of lands buffering the creek and its floodplain. San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy works closely with its partners in ECWA to accomplish this goal.  To-date, approximately 25 miles of stream along Escondido Creek and its tributaries are protected by conservation easements or through fee-title ownership by public agencies, water districts, and conservation groups.