The Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay (RMP) is a novel partnership between regulatory agencies and the regulated community to provide the scientific foundation to manage water quality in the largest Pacific estuary in the Americas. The RMP monitors water quality, sediment quality and bioaccumulation of priority pollutants in fish, bivalves and birds. To improve monitoring measurements or the interpretation of data, the RMP also regularly funds special studies. The success of the RMP stems from collaborative governance, clear objectives, and long-term institutional and monetary commitments. Over the past 22 years, high quality data and special studies from the RMP have guided dozens of important decisions about Bay water quality management. Moreover, the governing structure and the collaborative nature of the RMP have created an environment that allowed it to stay relevant as new issues emerged. With diverse participation, a foundation in scientific principles and a continual commitment to adaptation, the RMP is a model water quality monitoring program. This paper describes the characteristics of the RMP that have allowed it to grow and adapt over two decades and some of the ways in which it has influenced water quality management decisions for this important ecosystem.
The overarching goal of the RMP is to collect data and communicate information about water quality in San Francisco Bay in support of management decisions. The RMP was created in 1993 through Regional Board Resolution No. 92-043 that directed the Executive Officer to implement a Regional Monitoring Plan in collaboration with permitted dischargers pursuant to California Water Code, Sections 13267, 13383, 13268, and 13385. The goal was to replace individual receiving water monitoring requirements for dischargers with a comprehensive Regional Monitoring Program.
The Program is guided by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Regional Board and SFEI, first approved in 1996 and amended at various times since (see Appendix C of this Charter). Section VIII of the MOU states the roles and responsibilities of the Regional Board and SFEI in the implementation of the Program. Participating dischargers pay fees to the Program to comply with discharge permit requirements. The cost allocation schedule for Participants is described in Appendix B. The RMP provides an open forum for a wide range of Participant Groups and other Interested Parties to discuss contaminant issues, prioritize science needs, and monitor potential impacts of discharges on the Bay.
In support of the overarching goal described above, the following guiding principles define the intentions and expectations of RMP Participants. Implementation of the RMP will:
- Develop sound scientific information on water quality in the Bay;
- Prioritize funding decisions through collaborative discussions;
- Conduct decision-making in a transparent manner that consistently represents the diversity of RMP Participant interests;
- Utilize external science advisors for guidance and peer review;
- Maintain and make publicly available the data collected by the Program;
- Enhance public awareness and support by regularly communicating the status and trends of water quality in the Bay; and
- Coordinate with other monitoring and scientific studies in the Bay-Delta region to ensure efficiency.