Our Program and Focus Areas

RMP LogoThe Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay (RMP) is SFEI’s largest program. It provides the information that regulators and decision-makers need to manage the Bay effectively. The RMP is an innovative collaborative effort between SFEI, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the regulated discharger community.

An innovative partnership

The RMP has combined shared financial support, direction, and participation by regulatory agencies and the regulated community in a model of collective responsibility. The RMP has established a climate of cooperation and a commitment to participation among a wide range of regulators, dischargers, industry representatives, non-governmental agencies, and scientists. The RMP provides an open forum for interested parties to discuss contaminant issues facing the Bay.

An adaptive, long term program of study in support of management

Stable funding has enabled the RMP to develop long-term plans. In addition, Special Studies provide an opportunity to adapt to changing management priorities and advances in scientific understanding. RMP committees and workgroups meet regularly to keep the Program efficient, focused on the highest priority issues, and to ensure that RMP science is sound. The RMP has continually improved since its inception in 1993.

A high quality body of knowledge

The RMP has produced a world-class dataset on estuarine contaminants. Monitoring performed in the RMP determines spatial patterns and long-term trends in contamination through sampling of water, sediment, bivalves, bird eggs, and fish, and evaluates toxic effects on sensitive organisms and chemical loading to the Bay. The Program combines RMP data with data from other sources to provide for comprehensive assessment of chemical contamination in the Bay.

A portal to information about contamination in San Francisco Bay

The RMP provides information targeted at the highest priority questions faced by managers of the Bay. The RMP produces the Annual Monitoring Results which document the activities of the program each year, a summary report (Pulse of The Bay), technical reports that document specific studies and synthesize information from diverse sources, and journal publications that disseminate RMP results to the world’s scientific community. The RMP website provides access to RMP data, information products, and links to other sources of information about water quality in San Francisco Bay.

Events and Meeting Materials

Focus areas covered by the RMP are primarily addressed by the six workgroups: Emerging Contaminants (ECWG); Exposure and Effects (EEWG); Sources, Pathways and Loadings (SPLWG); PCBs; Selenium; and Dioxin. Workgroups consist of scientists who are currently studying the Bay, invited scientists who are nationally recognized experts in their field, and federal and state regulators. Each workgroup meets one to three times a year to address issues concerning the planning and implementation of RMP Special Studies and relevant elements of Status and Trends monitoring.

RMP "strategy teams" provide a forum for focus on specific interests to the program. The strategy teams are composed of stakeholder groups, which meet as needed to develop long-term RMP study plans for addressing high priority topics. To date, the RMP has developed strategies pertaining to mercury, PCBs, dioxins, small tributary loads, forecasting, and sport fish. The RMP also participates in the San Francisco Bay Nutrient Science and Management Strategy, which is developing the science needed for informed decisions about managing nutrient loads and maintaining beneficial uses within the Bay.

Activities of the workgroups, and technical content of the program as a whole, are overseen by the Technical Review Committee. The Steering Committee determines the overall budget, allocates program funds, tracks progress, and provides direction to the Program from a manager's perspective.

 

Key Resources

 

Events and Meeting Materials

In 1997, the RMP underwent a 5-year program review which helped to develop a revised set of RMP objectives including a new objective: “Describe general sources and loading of contamination to the Estuary” (Bernstein and O’Connor, 1997). The goal was to create a functional connection between the RMP and efforts to identify, eliminate, and prevent sources of pollution that influence the Bay. Guided by the new objective, the Sources, Pathways, and Loading Workgroup (SPLWG) was formed in early 1999 to produce recommendations for collection, interpretation, and synthesis of data on general sources and loading of trace contaminants to the Estuary. The first SPLWG recommendations were described in the first “Technical Report of the Sources Pathways and Loadings Workgroup” (Davis et al., 1999). Since that time the SPLWG has continued to provide management context and technical review on a series of desktop and field studies that largely followed the recommendations of Davis et al. (1999). The SPLWG ensures that the projects and products are relevant and help to answer ever developing management questions in the context of TMDLs and attainment of water quality standards.

In addition to it's other work, the SPLWG also oversees the Small Tributaries Loading Strategy (STLS) project. The STLS focuses on loadings from small tributaries (the rivers, creeks, and storm drains that enter the Bay downstream of Chipps Island), in coordination with the Municipal Regional Permit for Stormwater (MRP).

The scientific advisory panel consists of internationally known experts in this field including:

  • Dr. Barbara Mahler, US Geological Survey
  • Dr. Roger Bannerman, USGS, Wisconsin DNR
  • Dr. Michael Stenstrom, University of California – Los Angeles
  • Dr. Kelly Moran, TDC Environmental, LLC

 

Lead Scientist: Lester McKee

For further information, please contact Lester McKee at: ph 510-746-7363 or lester@sfei.org.

The Bay RMP fills critical science needs to assist managers in their goal of reducing harmful emerging contaminants in the Bay. Emerging contaminants are not currently regulated or commonly monitored, yet may pose significant ecological or human health risks.

A global leader in this field, the Bay RMP has developed an emerging contaminants strategy that guides decisions on monitoring and management. Early identification of problem pollutants and quick action to prevent their spread is an optimal and cost-effective strategy for protecting water quality. This is especially true in an ecosystem like the Bay, which can act as a long-term trap for persistent contaminants, with recovery taking decades or centuries when contamination is extensive.

Diligent surveillance using targeted and broadscan (non-targeted) techniques has identified three emerging contaminants of moderate concern for the Bay:

  • PFOS, a stain and water repellent
  • Fipronil, an insecticide
  • Nonylphenols and nonylphenol ethoxylates, surfactant ingredients in detergents and many other products

Flame retardants known as PBDEs were once moderate concerns for the Bay, but bans and phase-outs reduced contamination to the point that they are now considered low concerns. Many other contaminants have been monitored in the Bay and found to be of low concern as well. A multitude of emerging contaminants fall into a final category of possible concern, where uncertainty in our knowledge of toxicity or occurrence prevents an evaluation of risk. See the RMP's CEC Strategy (2017 Revision), the 2013 Pulse of the Bay and other Bay RMP resources on emerging contaminants for more information.

The scientific advisory panel for the Bay RMP Emerging Contaminant Workgroup (ECWG) consists of internationally respected experts:

  • Dr. Bill Arnold, University of Minnesota
  • Dr. Miriam Diamond, University of Toronto
  • Dr. Lee Ferguson, Duke University
  • Dr. Kelly Moran, TDC Environmental, LLC
  • Dr. Derek Muir, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Dr. Heather Stapleton, Duke University

Lead Scientist: Rebecca Sutton

For further information, please contact Rebecca Sutton at: ph 510-746-7388 or rebeccas@sfei.org

PCBs are a pollutant of high concern in San Francisco Bay. The PCB strategy ensures that the RMP is providing the information most urgently needed by managers to find remedies to the Bay’s PCB problem. The upcoming management decisions include the next iteration (2019-2020) of the PCB TMDL and identifying the best options for management actions to reduce PCB impairment. Because the PCB strategy integrates across workgroup areas, special studies designed to address the PCB strategy are reviewed by the most relevant workgroup, such as the EEWG or the CFWG. Studies under the PCB Strategy began in 2010. A PCB synthesis in 2014 will set the stage for a multi-year study plan.

The scientific advisory panel for the Bay RMP PCBs Workgroup consists of:

Dr. Frank Gobas, Simon Fraser University

Lead Scientist: Jay Davis

For more information, please contact Jay Davis at: 510-746-7368 or jay@sfei.org.

 

 

The first Selenium Strategy Team meeting will be held at SFEI on Tuesday, April 22 from 10 am to 2 pm.

The scientific advisory panel for the Bay RMP Selenium Workgroup consists of:

  • Dr. Harry Ohlendorf, CH2M Hill

 

Lead Scientist: Jennifer Sun

For more information, please contact Jennifer Sun at: ph 510-746-7393 or Jennifers@sfei.org.

At the request of the Regional Board, the RMP expanded the biological effects portion of the Status and Trends program, which at the time only monitored for aquatic and sediment toxicity. The Exposure and Effects Workgroup (EEWG) was formed with members from SFEI, USGS, AMS, the Regional Board, and other interested stakeholders. One of the purposes of the workgroup was to develop a biological effects pilot study (the Exposure and Effects Pilot Study (EEPS)) that would help address beneficial use management questions developed by the Regional Board. By building on the recommendations of other effects workgroups, reviewing existing literature related to work in the Estuary, and soliciting recommendations from the local scientific community (through a survey) the workgroup designed a five-year plan for addressing biological effects in the Bay.

The RMP’s EEPS evaluated a balanced suite of contaminant exposure and effects indicators that respond to general and specific contamination at the biochemical, cellular, individual, population, and community level. It evaluated contaminant effects and exposure in different media (on the bay floor, in the water column, and in wetlands/estuary margins), and at different spatial scales (site-specific, regionally, and estuary-wide). These initial overarching principles incorporate recommendations of the EEWG.

At the end of the five year pilot study the workgroup was incorporated into the RMP as a permanent workgroup. The EEWG continues to address the biological effects portion of the Status and Trends program and Pilot and Special Studies.

The scientific advisory panel consists of internationally known experts in this field including:

  • Dr. Michael Fry, Fish and Wildlife Service - Hawaii
  • Dr. Harry Ohlendorf, CH2M Hill
  • Dr. Dan Schlenk, University of California – Riverside
  • Dr. Steve Weisberg, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project

 

Lead Scientists: Meg Sedlak and Jay Davis

For further information, please contact Jay Davis at: ph 510-746-7368 or jay@sfei.org.

San Francisco Bay was placed on the State of California’s 303(d) list of impaired waterways in 1998 as a result of elevated concentrations of dioxins and furans (commonly referred to as only ‘dioxin’) in fish. RMP studies of contaminants in Bay sport fish conducted every three years since 1994 have found that dioxin concentrations have remained relatively unchanged over this time period and in some species, continue to exceed screening values for human consumption. Our understanding of dioxin in the Bay is extremely limited however and improving this is a necessary first step in the process to reduce concentrations in Bay fish and resultant health risks to fish-eating humans and wildlife. The dioxin strategy ensures that the RMP is providing information that is of highest value and most urgently needed by managers for development of a dioxin TMDL. The upcoming management decisions include reissuing permit requirements for dioxins, reviewing 303(d) listings, and establishing a TMDL development plan (2013-2014). Dioxin Strategy studies began in 2008, with a multi-year plan extending through 2012. Because the dioxin strategy integrates across workgroup areas, special studies designed to address the dioxin strategy are reviewed by the most relevant workgroup, such as the EEWG or the CFWG. Synthesis activities are planned for 2013 and 2014 after the data from the earlier studies are available.

The scientific advisory panel for the Bay RMP Dioxins Strategy Workgroup consists of:
 
Dr. Frank Gobas, Simon Fraser University
 
Lead Scientist: Don Yee
 
For more information, please contact Don Yee at: ph 510-746-7369 or donald@sfei.org.
 

Findings from a screening-level RMP study of microplastic pollution in our Bay show widespread contamination at levels greater than other U.S. water bodies with high levels of urban development, the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. Wildlife consume microplastic particles; ingestion can lead to physical harm, and can expose aquatic organisms to chemical pollutants in the plastic.

In 2016, the RMP established a Microplastic Workgroup to aid in development of a monitoring strategy and guide further study of this contamination. The scientific advisory panel for the Workgroup includes internationally respected experts:

  • Anna-Marie Cook, USEPA
  • Sherri Mason, SUNY Fredonia
  • Chelsea Rochman, University of Toronto

Lead Scientists: Meg Sedlak and Rebecca Sutton

For further information, please contact Meg Sedlak at: ph 510-746-7311 or meg@sfei.org.

THE RMP DOCUMENT ARCHIVES

This archive contains important documents relating to the establishment and development of the RMP.   

 

Laying the Foundations: Establishing the RMP

Carlin and Mumley. 1990. San Francisco Estuary Monitoring Program: Working Paper #1.  San Francisco Bay Water Board Resolution No. 92-043 (April 1992): Implementation of the Regional Monitoring Plan within the San Francisco Bay Region 13267 Letter (June 1992) from Water Board to Dischargers: Implementation of a Regional Monitoring Program for the San Francisco Estuary

 

Early RMP Reports

Flegal et al. 1991. Trace Element Cycles in the San Francisco Bay Estuary: Results from a Preliminary Study in 1989-1990 Taberski et al. 1992. San Francisco Bay Pilot Regional Monitoring Program 1991-1992: Summary Progress Report.

SFEI. 1994. 1993 Annual Report: San Francisco Estuary Regional Monitoring Program for Trace Substances.

The first RMP Annual Report

SFBRWQCB. 1995. Contaminant Levels in Fish Tissue from San Francisco Bay.

First report on contaminants in fish tissue, conducted in 1994 under the Bay Protection and Toxic Cleanup Program

 

Retrospectives

Johnston. 1995. Regional Monitoring Program Update.

An account of the formation and status of the RMP included in the first edition of the RMP newsletter Regional Monitoring News

Regional Monitoring News Article. 2004. Founder Steve Ritchie Looks Back at Ten Years of the Regional Monitoring Program.

Excerpts from Steve Ritchie's presentation at the 2003 Annual Meeting celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Program

 

Meadows. 2013. Celebrating 20 Years of Monitoring San Francisco Bay. 

An insert to Estuary News written by Robin Meadows on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Program 

Davis. 2017.  The 25th Anniversary of the RMP

A review of some of the major milestones in the formation and
development of the RMP

Projects Related to the Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay

Dredged Material Testing Thresholds for San Francisco Bay Area Sediments

This page presents sediment chemistry thresholds for seven different contaminant classes, used by the Dredged Material Management Office (DMMO) for determining when bioaccumulation testing will typically be required for dredged material proposed to be discharged at unconfined open water disposal sites in San Francisco Bay. These same thresholds are also used by DMMO to determine when additional analysis of the post-dredge sediment surface (“residual” or “z-layer” sediments) may be warranted.

Annual Monitoring Report

The San Francisco Estuary Institute has been collecting water, sediment and tissue samples from the San Francisco Bay and tributaries since 1993. These samples are analyzed for ancillary parameters, trace metals and trace organics. Each year a summary of the year's sampling events is published in the Regional Monitoring Program’s Annual Monitoring Results. The results and associated graphics can be accessed using the Contaminant Data Display & Download (CD3) tool. 

Small Tributaries Loading Strategy

The Small Tributaries Loading Strategy (STLS) is overseen by the Sources, Pathways, and Loadings Workgroup. It focuses on loadings from small tributaries (the rivers, creeks, and storm drains that enter the Bay downstream of Chipps Island), in coordination with the Municipal Regional Permit for Stormwater (MRP).

Sport Fish

Fish from San Francisco Bay contain concentrations of mercury, PCBs, and other chemical contaminants that are above thresholds of concern for human health. This problem was first documented in 1994 when the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (SFBRWQCB) performed a pilot study to measure contaminant concentrations in Bay sport fish (Fairey et al. 1997).

RMP eUpdate Newsletter

Sign up for the RMP eUpdate Newsletter and keep up to date on the latest from the San Francisco Bay Regional Monitoring Program (RMP) for Water Quality.

Publications Issued by the Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay

The Institute has collectively produced more than 1300 reports, articles, and other publications over the course of its 24-year existence. The following list represents those publications associated with this individual program and its focus areas.
Top Publications
Trowbridge P. 2018 RMP Detailed Workplan and Budget. Richmond, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute ; 2018 .  (390.05 KB)
RMP. 2017 RMP Multi-Year Plan. Richmond, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute; 2017 .  (2.14 MB)
Trowbridge P. Charter: Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay. Richmond, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute ; 2017 . Report No.: 844.  (1.68 MB)
RMP. 2016 RMP Detailed Workplan and Budget. Richmond, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institue; 2016 .  (1.73 MB)

Year of Publication: 2017

Sutton R, Sedlak M. Microplastic Monitoring and Science Strategy for San Francisco Bay. Richmond, Calif.: San Francisco Estuary Institute; 2017 . Report No.: 798.  (17.38 MB)
Wu J, Gilbreath A, McKee LJ. Regional Watershed Spreadsheet Model (RWSM): Year 6 Progress Report. Richmond, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute; 2017 . Report No.: 811.  (1.79 MB)
Sun J, Pearce S, Trowbridge P. RMP Field Sampling Report 2016. Richmond, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute; 2017 . Report No.: 826.  (1.08 MB)
Yee D, Ross J. San Francisco Bay California Toxics Rule Priority Pollutant Ambient Water Monitoring Report. Richmond: San Francisco Estuary Institute; 2017 . Report No.: 814.  (1.92 MB)
SFEI. The Pulse of the Bay: The 25th Anniversary of the RMP. Richmond, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute; 2017 . Report No.: 841.  (15.72 MB)

Year of Publication: 2016

SFEI. 2015 Annual Monitoring Report. Richmond, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute; 2016 . Report No.: 775.  (3.28 MB)
Shimabuku I. 2015 Update to Copper Rolling Average. Richmond, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute ; 2016.  (951.49 KB)
Shimabuku I. 2015 Update to Cyanide Rolling Average. Richmond, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute ; 2016.  (941.06 KB)

Where Our Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay Works