Alicia Gilbreath's picture

Alicia Gilbreath, MLA-EP

Senior Scientist
Clean Water Program
Bay Regional Monitoring Program
Contaminants of Emerging Concern
Sources, Pathways, & Loadings
Watershed Monitoring and Modeling

Alicia Gilbreath is an environmental scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, where she splits her time between field-based monitoring and investigations and office-based data analysis, research and writing. Alicia earned a BA in Philosophy and BS in Psychology from UC Davis, and an MLA with an emphasis in Environmental Planning from UC Berkeley. She joined SFEI's Watersheds Program in 2006. Primarily Alicia's work for the Institute has focused on monitoring and modeling pollutant concentrations and loads in stormwater. Whether it's for SFEI field work or taking her boys on special wet and muddy adventures in the Oakland hills, Alicia loves getting outside for big storms.

Related Projects, News, and Events

Storms drive emerging contaminants into the Bay (News)

Rainfall washes contaminants from urban landscapes to San Francisco Bay, degrading water quality. In the latest RMP Update, we highlight the findings of a major multi-year screening study to quantify hundreds of emerging contaminants in stormwater. Our investigation shows that urban stormwater runoff transports toxic chemicals including PFAS, flame retardants, plastic additives, auto tire chemicals, and many others, with concentrations often similar to discharges of municipal wastewater effluent. Further characterization of emerging contaminants in stormwater is a priority for future work.

RMP Update (Project)

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.

California Trash Monitoring Methods Project (Project)

The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC), in close partnership with the State Water Board, has recognized the importance of standard methods for trash monitoring and has funded this project. The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) and San Francisco Bay Estuary Institute (SFEI) have partnered up to test multiple trash monitoring methods with a goal of developing a library of methods with known levels of precision, accuracy, and cross-comparability of results, and linking these methods to specific management questions.

Save the Bay: Climate Conversations-Greening our Cities (Event)

Join Save The Bay for Climate Conversations and learn how an innovative nature-based approach to stormwater management called green stormwater infrastructure can help cities prepare for the impacts of climate change while improving the health of the San Francisco Bay.

Next Generation Urban Greening (Project)

SFEI is working with partners across the Bay Area to design tools to help cities achieve biodiversity, stormwater, and climate benefits through multifunctional green infrastructure.

Regional Watershed Spreadsheet Model (Project)

The Regional Watershed Spreadsheet Model (RWSM) was developed to estimate average annual regional and sub-regional scale loads for the San Francisco Bay Area. It is part of a class of deterministic empirical models based on the volume-concentration method.

A Synthesis of Microplastic Sources and Pathways to Urban Runoff (News)

What do clothes dryers and car tires have in common? Both release microplastic pollution into the environment, according to a new investigation by scientists at the San Francisco Estuary Institute. 

Hacienda Avenue Bio-Infiltration Basins (Project)

The Hacienda Avenue Green Street Project in Campbell, California, reconstructed 1.4 km of public right of way along W. Hacienda Avenue from Winchester Boulevard to Burrows Road. In collaboration with the City of Campbell and the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, scientists from SFEI installed monitoring equipment in two adjacent basins to measure how the basins infiltrated water over the course of a rainy season. This award-winning project infiltrated 100% of the stormwater flowing into it during the rainy season of 2015-2016.

Toxic Tire Contaminant Found in Bay Area Stormwater (News)

Scientists at the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) have found a highly toxic tire-related contaminant at levels lethal to coho salmon in stormwater flowing through four sites in the Bay Area. The contaminant, derived from a tire preservative, has been discovered by Washington state researchers to be responsible for high levels of coho salmon deaths in Puget Sound streams. These findings will  inform a petition by state stormwater leaders to the Department of Toxic Substances Control to address pollution of California streams caused by tires.

The research team, led by scientists at the University of Washington and Washington State University, published the results of their investigation yesterday in the journal Science. The chemical, 6PPD-quinone (pronounced "kwih-known"), can wash into streams along with tire wear particles when it rains. Scientists at San Francisco Estuary Institute collected samples from nine Bay Area streams and storm drains during storm events; four contained levels of this contaminant above the concentration at which half the coho salmon die after a few hours of exposure in laboratory experiments. SFEI’s Alicia Gilbreath and Rebecca Sutton are co-authors on the study.

California Trash Monitoring Playbook now available (News)

With the Ocean Protection Council-funded trash monitoring project concluded, the project team is eager to deliver its results to you. The team has compiled its data, composed its reports, and is now ready to share with you two reports, intended for use by trash-monitoring practitioners and the diverse constellation of stakeholders who benefit from trash-monitoring efforts. Now available on are:

Alameda Creek Watershed Sediment Forum (Project)

Alameda Creek is the largest watershed in the Bay area draining approximately 650 square miles of the East Bay interior hills and valleys, including the Livermore-Amador and Sunol valleys. The creek then cuts through the East Bay Hills via Niles Canyon before flowing across its large alluvial fan and floodplain complex, ultimately discharging into the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay. Average annual rainfall in the watershed varies from 24 inches on Mt Hamilton at an elevation of 4,400 ft above sea level to 15 inches near the Bay margin in Fremont.

Small Tributaries Loading Strategy (Project)

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).

Load Monitoring in Representative Watersheds (Project)


There is an urgent need for estimates of stormwater loads by watershed and by region. The recently adopted Municipal Regional Permit (MRP) specifically requires generations of additional information on the loads of sediment and contaminants. In addition, the Mercury and PCB TMDLs require reductions in watershed loads by 50 and 90 percent, respectively. Understanding the loads from representative watersheds is critical for addressing these information needs and achieving these load reductions.

Featured in Forbes: Drones And Artificial Intelligence Help Combat The San Francisco Bay’s Trash Problem (News)

In a partnership with Kinetica, a data analytics start-up, and Oracle, SFEI and SCCWRP leveraged public funding from the California Ocean Protection Council to advance automated trash detection capabilities. The team deployed servers in the @Oracle Cloud to increase performance dynamically. Learn more about this project...

Newly published study shows rain gardens can filter PCBs, metals — and microplastics (News)

A new study from SFEI assessing the ability of rain gardens to remove contaminants from urban stormwater has shown that nature-based filtration may also be a solution for microplastic pollution. This solution and others will be featured in a symposium on microplastics for scientists, policy makers, and change leaders in Berkeley on October 2nd.

Drones for the Environment (News)

The Institute has been making use of drones for a number of projects over the past few years. However, recently, within the Environmental Informatics program, SFEI has been using UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) in particularly innovative ways.

Storm Flows Key to Managing Pollution in Highly Urban Watersheds (News)

Urban runoff is a large and potentially controllable source of pollutants for San Francisco Bay and urban centers around the world. SFEI scientists conducted intensive measurements for suspended sediments and a range of trace organic pollutants in dry weather and storm flow runoff from a fully urban watershed. More than 91% of the loads for every pollutant measured were transported during storm events, along with 87% of the total water discharge.

California Trash Data Dive 2018 (News)

On November 16, 2018, the project team helped to coordinate a Trash Data Dive convened by the State Water Board’s Office of Information Management and Analysis. Hosted at SFEI’s offices, the Trash Data Dive was well-attended and drew participants from all over California to discuss the opportunities to address entrenched problems with respect to trash-related information.

New Manuscript on Pollutants in the Guadalupe River Addresses Key Questions (News)

Guadalupe River is contaminated with mercury mining wastes from runoff associated with the historic New Almaden Mining District in the upper watershed that produced 40 million kilograms during its working life (1850-1975) and with PCB and other urban pollutants from a long history of urbanization and industrial land uses.

SFEI has been monitoring pollutant concentrations in the Guadalupe River during winter storms since October 2002. The result is one of the world’s most extensive data sets on mercury, PCBs, and other pollutant concentrations and loads in an urban river.  In a recent manuscript, SFEI staff used the dataset to answer three major questions.

Regional Stormwater Monitoring and Urban BMP Evaluation (Prop 13) (Project)

Nonpoint source pollution has been identified nationally, in the State of California, and in the Bay Area as the leading source of degradation of natural waters. The magnitude of nonpoint source pollution is accentuated in coastal areas where human population is high and where pressures from urban development, industrial and commercial activities, and recreational use are the greatest. San Francisco Bay is listed as an impaired water body for PCBs and mercury under Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act . The RWQCB has recently developed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) reports for the Bay for mercury and PCBs.