Our Program and Focus Areas
The 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 summary reports (Pulse of The Bay and RMP Update), technical reports that document specific studies and synthesize information from diverse sources, as well as 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.
The RMP has a long-term Status and Trends Monitoring Program that began in 1993. The monitoring design has evolved over time and currently consists of:
- Contaminants in water (every 2 years)
- Contaminants in sediment (every 5 years)
- Contaminants in bivalve tissue (every 2 years)
- Contaminants in sport fish (every 5 years)
- Contaminants in bird eggs (every 3 years)
- Long-term hydrographic and suspended sediment studies by the U.S. Geological Survey (annually)
The Sources, Pathways, and Loading Workgroup (SPLWG) was formed in 1999 to produce recommendations for collection, interpretation, and synthesis of data on sources and loads of trace contaminants. This information is needed to support efforts to identify and eliminate pollution in the landscape, and prevent it from impacting the beneficial uses of San Francisco Bay. The first decade of work was focused on using a field-intensive monitoring program to estimate loads of PCBs, mercury, and other legacy trace contaminants entering the Bay. Pathways included the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, urban and nonurban stormwater in the nine counties that fringe the Bay, municipal and industrial wastewater, and atmospheric deposition. With the PCB and mercury TMDLs in place and impairment assessments completed for organochlorine pesticides, PAHs, PBDEs, and dioxins/furans, the second decade focused on refining loads for PCBs and Hg, searching for PCB and mercury sources in municipal stormwater, and building modeling tools to estimate regional loads and temporal trends, and identify high-leverage subcatchments and source areas.
Now in its third decade, the SPLWG is increasing its work on characterizing contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in stormwater, and continuing to develop an integrated modeling and monitoring approach for both legacy contaminants and CECs to address RMP management questions more efficiently. CECs of interest include PFAS, organophosphate esters, bisphenols, and tire-related chemicals, but priorities are continuing to evolve as information is generated about sources, pathways, and the impacts of CECs on Bay beneficial uses. In concert with other workgroups and the RMP more generally, the goal is to continue to use the latest integrated modeling and monitoring tools to support improved linkages between spatial and temporal watershed loading trends and Bay beneficial use impairment and recovery.
The group is supported by scientific advisors with international reputations:
- Tom Jobes
- Dr. Jon Butcher
- Dr. Steven Corsi
- Dr. Robert Budd
The Bay RMP fills critical science needs to assist managers in their goal of reducing harmful emerging contaminants in San Francisco Bay. Emerging contaminants are unregulated or under-regulated and not commonly monitored, yet may pose significant ecological and/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 approach 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 state-of-the-art analytical techniques has identified emerging contaminants of moderate concern for the Bay:
- PFAS, stain and water repelling chemicals widely used in industrial and consumer products
- Fipronil and imidacloprid, insecticides with significant urban uses
- Alkylphenols and alkylphenol ethoxylates, ingredients in detergents and many other products
- Bisphenols, plastic ingredients
- Organophosphate esters, flame retardants and plasticizers
A scientific advisory panel of internationally renowned experts advises the Bay RMP Emerging Contaminants Workgroup (ECWG):
- Dr. Bill Arnold, University of Minnesota
- Dr. Miriam Diamond, University of Toronto
- Dr. Lee Ferguson, Duke University
- Dr. Derek Muir, Environment and Climate Change Canada
- Dr. Heather Stapleton, Duke University
- Dr. Dan Villenueve, US EPA
Lead Scientist: Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D.
PCBs are a pollutant of high concern in San Francisco Bay. Additionally, the 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. The PCB & Dioxin strategy ensures that the RMP is providing the information needed to support the development of appropriate effluent limits for municipal and industrial discharges and find remedies to the Bay’s PCB problem. The upcoming management decisions include the next iteration (2020-2021) of the PCB TMDL and identifying the best options for management actions to reduce PCB impairment. Our understanding of dioxin in the Bay has improved due to special studies conducted over the past decade. Although the available information suggests progress will be slow toward Bay-wide reductions in concentrations in fish and resulting health risks to humans and wildlife, similar to PCBs, there may be localized opportunities to effect change at select, more highly impacted, sites.
The scientific advisory panel for the Bay RMP PCBs & Dioxin 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 [email protected].
Sediment is a building block of Bay geography and is the physical foundation for tidal marshes, which must vertically accrete to keep pace with sea-level rise and continue functioning as natural filters for nutrients and pollutants from urban, agricultural, and industrial runoff sources. Sediment on the Bay floor can store contaminants within interstitial waters and suspended sediment can transport contaminants throughout the Bay. In addition, suspended sediment is a key factor limiting algal blooms and eutrophication. There is a growing focus on sediment processes in the Bay, driven by the need for better information on water and sediment quality, as well as the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise to the Bay’s tidal wetlands.
In 2018, the RMP formed the Sediment Workgroup to provide technical oversight and stakeholder guidance on RMP studies addressing management and policy needs related to sediment delivery, sediment transport, dredging, and beneficial reuse of sediment within the Bay. The Sediment Workgroup includes representatives from federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (SFBRWQCB), and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), as well as representatives from ports, the dredging community, local water agencies, universities, and private consulting firms.
The scientific advisory panel for the Bay RMP Sediment Workgroup consists of two internationally renowned estuarine sediment experts:
Dr. David Schoellhamer, USGS (retired)
Dr. Patricia Wiberg, University of Virginia
Lead Scientist: Scott Dusterhoff
For more information, please contact Scott Dusterhoff at [email protected].
Microplastics are tiny bits of plastic smaller than five millimeters. Their small size exempts them from most current regulations, but makes them difficult to filter out or remove once they are in aquatic ecosystems. Microplastics enter the environment through human use of plastic products. Plastic doesn’t decay – it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Synthetic clothing and textiles, disposable plastic items like plastic bags and polystyrene foam packaging, tires wearing down as they are driven over roads, and littered cigarette butts can all contribute to microplastic pollution. These tiny bits of plastic may be harmful to aquatic life. Animals may breathe microplastics in via their gills or mistake microplastics for food, and these tiny plastic bits can have toxic effects. Exposure to microplastics also means exposure to the chemical pollutants within the plastics, most of which are emerging contaminants. Because microplastics can be made of many different types of plastics with many different chemistries, scientists are still working to understand the many ways they may affect aquatic organisms and human health.
Our research in the San Francisco Bay has generated a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive regional study of microplastic pollution of a major urban estuary and adjacent ocean environment, making SFEI a world leader in the science of understanding microplastic pollution. As policymakers and water quality managers become more interested in microplastics and their risks to aquatic ecosystems, SFEI science data and conceptual modeling is providing insights that inform local, state, and national decisions to protect the environment.
THE RMP DOCUMENT ARCHIVES
This archive contains important documents relating to the establishment and development of the RMP.
Laying the Foundations: Establishing the RMP
The Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay is an innovative collaboration of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, the regulated discharger community, and the San Francisco Estuary Institute. It provides water quality regulators with the information they need to manage the Bay effectively. The RMP produces two types of summary reports: The Pulse of the Bay and the RMP Update. The Pulse focuses on Bay water quality and summarizes information from all sources. The RMP Update has a narrower and specific focus on highlights of RMP activities.
The purpose of the RMP Update is to provide a concise overview of recent RMP activities and findings, and a look ahead to significant products anticipated in the next two years.
The report includes:
- a brief summary of some of the most noteworthy findings of this multifaceted Program;
- a description of the management context that guides the Program; and
- a summary of progress in, and plans for, addressing priority water quality topics.
Click Here for a PDF of the 2021 RMP Update.
To request hard copies of the Update, please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/cNxBSN88GrPp1mQF9
If you have comments or questions please contact Jay Davis ([email protected])
Previous RMP Updates:
Find an interactive, eBook version of the 2014 RMP Update here