The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) monitors water quality and suspended-sediment transport in the San Francisco Bay. The San Francisco Bay area is home to millions of people, and the bay teems with both resident and migratory wildlife, plants, and fish. Fresh water mixes with salt water in the bay, which is subject both to riverine and marine (tides, waves, influx of salt water) influences. To understand this environment, the USGS, along with its partners, has been monitoring the bay’s waters continuously since 1988. Several water-quality variables are of particular importance to State and Federal resource managers and are monitored at key locations throughout the bay. Salinity, which indicates the relative mixing of fresh and ocean waters in the bay, is derived from specific conductance measurements. Water temperature, along with salinity, affects the density of water, which causes gravity driven circulation patterns and stratification in the water column. Turbidity is measured using light-scattering from suspended solids in water, and is used as a surrogate for suspended-sediment concentration (SSC). Suspended sediment often carries adsorbed contaminants; attenuates sunlight in the water column; deposits on tidal marsh and intertidal mudflats, which can help sustain these habitats as sea level rises; and deposits in ports and shipping channels, which can necessitate dredging. Dissolved oxygen, which is essential to a healthy ecosystem, is a fundamental indicator of water quality, and its concentration is affected by water temperature, salinity, ecosystem metabolism, tidal currents, and wind. Tidal currents in the bay reverse four times a day, and wind direction and intensity typically change on a daily cycle: consequently, salinity, water temperature, suspendedsediment concentration, and dissolvedoxygen concentration vary spatially and temporally throughout the bay, and continuous measurements are needed to observe these changes. The purpose of this fact sheet is to inform the public and resource managers of the availability of these water-quality data.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Continuous water-quality and suspended-sediment transport monitoring in the San Francisco Bay, California, water years 2011–13
U.S. Geological Survey
San Francisco Bay-Delta, California Water Science Center