Water Quality of San Francisco Bay Research and Monitoring Project

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Since 1969, the U.S. Geological Survey has maintained a research project in the San Francisco Bay-Delta system to measure and understand how estuarine systems and tidal river deltas function and change in response to hydro-climatic variability and human activities.

Project Overview

Estuaries are the interface of rivers, ocean, atmosphere, and dense human settlement. As such, their variability is driven by a large array of natural and anthropogenic forces. This website describes the long-term research and observation project in the San Francisco Bay-Delta that serves to measure and understand changes in water quality due to these forces.

For the past five decades, the USGS has conducted ship-based measurements of water quality along a 145-kilometer-deep water transect that spans the length of the entire system from ocean to inland delta. We sample the full salinity gradient on monthly cruises aboard the R/V Peterson and historically on the R/V Polaris. Read more about where and when we collect measurements.

We measure the basic elements of water quality that define the sustainability of the Bay as habitat for fish and organisms of the lower trophic levels. Using both oceanographic sensors and discrete water collection, we measure salinity, temperature, light extinction coefficient, chlorophyll-a, dissolved oxygen, suspended particulate matter, nitrate, nitrite, ammonium, silicate, and phosphate. Take a closer look at what we measure and how our measurements are made.


Data availability

Access the Water Quality of San Francisco Bay Data Query to download measurements from 1969 to our most recent cruise.  

These publicly available data are used to measure, model, and understand how estuaries function as transitional ecosystems between land and sea where seawater and freshwater meet. We provide examples of the diversity of applications of these data used in many different disciplines that range from tidal circulation and transport processes and sediment-water nutrient exchange, to phytoplankton productivity and responses to climate variability.

Data visualizations for each cruise will be added to this site in the near future.


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Agencies Supporting the Program of Water-Quality Data Collection and Dissemination

This work complements the Interagency Ecological Program for the San Francisco Bay/Delta Ecosystem.