Water quality is a key indicator of the condition of aquatic resources and overall ecosystem health. Freshwater quality directly impacts marine water quality, human recreation and enjoyment, riparian habitat and wetland health, and nearly all aquatic and terrestrial species. Additionally, many threatened and endangered species, such as coho salmon and California red-legged frog, depend on high quality freshwater in San Francisco Bay Area Network parks.
The Inventory and Monitoring Program began monitoring freshwater quality year-round in 2006. Park staff measure basic parameters (such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and conductivity) on-site, collect water samples to measure turbidity, nutrients, and bacteria in the lab. Long-term water quality monitoring helps to document stream conditions, create a baseline dataset that can be used to look at changes over time, assess the effects of contamination or erosion, and provide direct feedback to guide management actions. In time, we will be able to analyze freshwater quality datasets in four of the network park units in order to determine range, variability, and trends. At present we compare our observations with federal and state water quality objectives and publish these results on a biannual basis.