Download this year’s Pulse of the Bay! The newly released report from the Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay summarizes the present state of Bay water quality and looks into the crystal ball at what the condition of Bay water might be 50 years from now.

The Pulse is a companion to the State of the Estuary Report and examines whether Estuary waters are clean enough to be safe for fishing, for swimming, and to provide healthy habitat for aquatic life.

Current Water Quality: Bay water quality is generally in fair to good condition with limited areas of improvement

  • The status for fishing is fair due to two legacy contaminants, mercury and PCBs, and there has been no indication of improvement since 1994
  • Water quality is excellent for swimming at most Bay beaches, however conditions are poor due to pathogen contamination at 7% of beaches in summer and 27% in wet weather
  • The quality of Bay water as habitat for aquatic life is fair but improving.  Hundreds of chemicals have been measured and are below thresholds for concern, but mercury, invasive species, and trash are still problems. Recent improvement has been achieved for PBDEs (flame retardants), and copper, and additional improvement is expected for invasive species, trash, and PFOS (a component of stain repellants).
  • Reducing inputs from urban runoff is a primary focus of managers in their efforts to control legacy pollutants such as mercury and PCBs, trash, and other threats to Bay water quality.

Predictions: Six experts were asked to share their visions of Bay water quality in 2065

  • Fifty years from now it can be expected that local sources of today’s pollutants of concern will be under robust control and that major hotspots will have been cleaned up.
  • Municipal wastewater and stormwater will increasingly be captured and used as a water supply.  This will cause significant reductions in water flows, and possibly contaminant loads, into the Bay.
  • Climate change will drive alterations in flows into the Bay, the spatial extent of the Bay, water movement, and water chemistry.
  • New technologies will enhance water quality monitoring but also pose a threat as new materials are used in energy generation, transportation, and other sectors.

Progress: A great deal of activity and significant progress in water quality monitoring and management has occurred over the last four years

  • A variety of activities prescribed by a municipal regional stormwater permit, including pilot-scale evaluation of the effectiveness and costs of a variety of control measures, actions to control trash, and studies to establish the science needed to support management.
  • To address growing concerns about adverse nutrient impacts, a San Francisco Bay Nutrient Management Strategy has been developed. The Strategy lays out an overall approach for building the scientific understanding to support well-informed nutrient management decisions.
  • The RMP remains at the forefront of monitoring contaminants of emerging concern. Significant advances include development of a forward-looking science strategy, a tiered framework that sets priorities for management and monitoring, and conclusive documentation of declines in toxic flame retardants known as PBDEs following a halt in US production.


  • Jay Davis   510 746-7368,  cell: 530-304-2308, Director- SFEI Clean Water Program
  • Phil Trowbridge  510 746-7345, Program Manager, Regional Monitoring Program
  • Warner Chabot  510 375-2141 , Executive Director

Experts Interviewed for the “2065 Perspective” Future Water Quality Article

  • Adam Olivieri, Top consultant to Bay Area Flood Control Agencies, VP consulting firm EOA, Inc.
  • David Sedlak, UC-Berkeley professor, top expert on the future of urban water systems, leads a coalition of Berkeley and Stanford engineers on focused on reinventing urban systems  
  • Thomas Mumley, Assistant Executive Officer of SF Regional Water Board  
  • James Ervin, Manager - San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility, obsessed with creating vibrant wildlife habitat in discharge ponds  
  • Philip Trowbridge, SFEI, Manager of the Regional Monitoring Program
  • Jay Davis, SFEI, Senior Scientist & Co-Director of Clean Water Program, lead scientist of the Regional Monitoring Program
Associated Staff: 
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Clean Water Program
Bay Regional Monitoring Program
Environmental Informatics Program
Location Information