Nutrients and the effects of nutrients on water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a priority focus area for the Delta Regional Monitoring Program (Delta RMP). The Program’s first assessment question regarding nutrients is: “How do concentrations of nutrients (and nutrient-associated parameters) vary spatially and temporally?” In this analysis, we confirmed previously reported declining trends in the San Joaquin River for nutrient concentrations at Vernalis and chlorophyll-a concentrations at Buckley Cove and Disappointment Slough. A slight increasing trend for dissolved oxygen at Buckley Cove was also detected which could be confirmation that management actions for the San Joaquin River Dissolved Control Program are having the desired effect. Finally, at stations in Suisun Bay, the Confluence region, and Franks Tract, chlorophyll-a showed modest increasing trends, which were not evident in previous analyses. The new analyses presented in this report and the findings from earlier reports constitute encouraging early progress toward answering the Delta RMP’s assessment questions. Specifically, due to the existence of long-term data sets and synthesis efforts, spatial and temporal trends in the concentrations of nutrients and nutrient-related parameters are reasonably well understood and so are the magnitudes of the most important sources of nutrients from outside the Delta. However, additional synthesis work could be done to understand the factors behind these trends. Large knowledge gaps remain about nutrient sinks, sources, and processes within the Delta. The mechanistic, water quality-hydrodynamic models being developed for the Delta may be able to address these questions in the future.
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The Delta Regional Monitoring Program was founded in 2014 to help inform decisions on how to protect and restore water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Delta is at the heart of California’s divisive water politics—it is the source of drinking water for 25 million people, supplies irrigation water to millions of acres of rich farmland, and is also the home for threatened and endangered species.