Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
National Marine Sanctuaries

Water Quality

Water Quality_ map
Figure 1. Zones of water quality monitoring within the Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones, and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries. [View Larger]
The three northern California sanctuaries provide habitat for a wealth of biological diversity. The organisms that reside in or visit the region depend upon clean water, as do all our commercial and recreational uses.

Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries border the California coastline and receive runoff from watershed regions that support a variety of land uses.

Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary is influenced by the San Francisco Bay metropolitan area. Further to the south, Monterey Bay sanctuary is somewhat less vulnerable to industrial discharges and large point sources of pollution. However, by virtue of being adjacent to such a large extent of coastline, it is still susceptible to the effects of non-point, urban, rural and agricultural pollution sources.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is far enough offshore to be relatively free of any direct impacts associated with terrestrial inputs. As such, it is thought that water quality within that sanctuary is relatively good. However, seasonal variations, due to precipitation and current patterns, have been observed. For example, researchers have observed impacts at the bank from the severe flooding of coastal counties: debris such as large logs, dock pilings, floats, bottles, plastic sheets and much more, all likely originating from San Francisco Bay, demonstrated that extended El Niño conditions with heavy rains can affect water quality even far offshore.
Footprints in the sand, near sunset at San Carlos Beach, Monterey, CA.

Bruckner Chase as he exits the ocean at San Carlos Beach after swimming 26 miles across Monterey Bay from Santa Cruz, CA.


To improve the water quality conditions in the sanctuaries, it is important to understand fully where the pollution comes from, where it is going, what its impacts are and if its concentration is increasing or decreasing over time.

A number of water quality monitoring programs are underway in Cordell Bank sanctuary: Ongoing monitoring programs also operate within Monterey Bay sanctuary and its watersheds. These include, among others: