California Water Science Center

Surface Water

Streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs - collectively referred to as surface water - are important natural resources for irrigation, public supply, wetlands and wildlife. Surface water is also measured as annual runoff, which is the amount of rain and snowmelt drainage left after the demands of nature, evaporation from land, and transpiration from vegetation have been supplied. It supplies most of our basic water needs.

Filter Total Items: 117
Date published: January 20, 2021
Status: Active

Assessing Sediment Nutrient Storage and Release in California's Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

Sediments represent an important pool of nutrients in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta). The exchange of nutrients between the water column and the benthos impacts water quality and effects phytoplankton, harmful algal blooms, aquatic vegetation, and drinking water quality. To date, there is very limited information about nutrient pools in Delta sediments, nor how these nutrients are...

Date published: November 20, 2020
Status: Active

Ecosystem Engineering Impacts of Water Primrose in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

Many non-native fish, invertebrates, and plants have colonized the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta), the landward most region of the San Francisco Estuary. Included among these invasive species is the water primrose (Ludwigia grandiflora ssp. hexapetala and Ludwigia peploides), an aggressive floating aquatic plant that is native to South and Central America and parts of the US, but...

Date published: November 2, 2020
Status: Active

Selenium Hazard in the Salton Sea Environment, Summary of Current Knowledge to Inform Future Science

The effect of selenium (Se) toxicity on wildlife has been known for more than 50 years. The threat of Se contamination gained greater attention from federal agencies in the 1980s due to the observation of embryo deformity and mortality in birds at a National Wildlife Refuge in California. Harmful effects from Se were determined to be connected to irrigation drainage water.

As a result,...

Date published: September 28, 2020
Status: Completed

Sediment transport, streamflow, and climate change: long-term resilience of the Bay-Delta

Sediment supply is important to the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay (Bay-Delta) ecosystem. Sediment eroded from upland source areas in the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds is transported through the rivers to the Bay-Delta where it is deposited in mudflats and tidal wetlands, which in turn helps protect against the effects of sea-level rise. Sediment...

Date published: August 26, 2020
Status: Active

High Resolution Temporal and Spatial Mapping of Mercury and Methylmercury in Surface Waters of the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta

Mercury (Hg) is a contaminant of significant concern in the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary and watershed (Bay-Delta). The formation, fate, and transport of methylmercury (MeHg), a particularly toxic organic form of Hg that readily bioaccumulates in wildlife, has been studied extensively throughout the system. However, there is widespread recognition of the need for more comprehensive...

Date published: August 5, 2020
Status: Active

Evaluating the effects of wastewater-derived nutrients on phytoplankton abundance and community structure in the San Francisco Estuary and Delta

Planned upgrades to the Sacramento Regional wastewater treatment plant (SRWTP) will substantially reduce nutrient discharge and also alter the types and amounts of nutrients being distributed across the San Francisco Delta and Estuary (Delta).

One highly anticipated outcome of lower nutrients is improved productivity in the phytoplankton communities that supply aquatic food webs, which...

Date published: July 15, 2020
Status: Active

Modeling Nitrogen Reduction Benefit to Invasive Aquatic Vegetation vs. Native Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton comprise the bottom of the aquatic food web and the abundance of phytoplankton serves as an indicator of healthy aquatic habitats. In the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta), competing with phytoplankton for required nitrogen, invasive aquatic vegetation (IAV) has increased exponentially in recent years. Once established, IAV can negatively impact local ecosystems and...

Date published: June 26, 2020
Status: Active

Monitoring Cyanotoxins in California's Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta: Fixed Stations and High-Resolution Mapping Surveys

California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta) provides drinking water to about 30 million people and irrigation water to the agriculturally rich Central Valley. The Delta is also home to numerous threatened and endangered native species. The health of the Delta's aquatic ecosystems, and fish in particular, have long been in a state of decline. This is associated with decreasing...

Date published: June 9, 2020
Status: Active

Effects of Wildfire and Fire Retardants on Nutrient Transport in California Watersheds

Large wildfires have increased in size and frequency in the western United States over the past several decades. This has led to increased soil erosion and the transport of sediment containing nutrients into streams and reservoirs. Excess nutrients typically lead to the increased production of algae which can then lead to low levels of dissolved oxygen. This degrades the habitat for fish and...

Date published: August 27, 2019
Status: Active

Mercury studies at Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine and Clear Lake, California

The abandoned Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine on the shores of Clear Lake in Northern California has been designated as a "Superfund Site" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This means that the EPA has determined that the area is contaminated by hazardous waste and requires cleanup...

Date published: July 24, 2019
Status: Active

Organic Matter Research Laboratory

The USGS California Water Science Center's Organic Matter Research Laboratory provides laboratory services and support to regional and national projects in the analysis of organic matter using the latest methods in absorbance and fluorescence spectroscopy along with standard measurement of total dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen concentration.

Date published: June 13, 2019
Status: Active

Improving Forecasting for California's Snow Melt Water Supply

California's Sierra Nevada snowpack accounts for much of the water supply in many parts of the state. The snowpack retains large amounts of water in the winter that is then released as temperatures rise in the spring and summer. The snowpack also keeps the Sierra soil moist by covering it longer into spring and summer. Soil moisture influences the onset of wildfires, as well as wildfire...