Local Creek Health

People, fish and aquatic life all benefit from healthy surface waters.  What is the condition of aquatic life in creeks in the San Francisco Bay Area?  What are long-term trends in water quality in local creeks?

For nearly two decades, SCVURPPP has carried out an award-winning stream water quality monitoring program in the Santa Clara Valley to answer these questions. 

Program and member agency staff track various creek health indicators:

  • Aquatic insects (Benthic macroinvertebrates)  Communities of bugs living in the streambed can tell you a lot about overall creek health.
  • Algae (Phytoplankton, Diatoms) In balanced amounts, these simple aquatic plants can provide food and oxygen for creek life.
  • Physical habitat  Fish & aquatic life thrive in complex streams with different types of flows, plant cover, woody debris, rocks & sediment.
  • Nutrients Levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients affect aquatic plant & algae growth.
  • General chemistry Fish need waters with livable ranges of pH, specific conductivity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and temperature.
  • Bacteria (E. coli, fecal coliform, Enterococci) These single-celled organisms impact the health of water for supply & recreational uses.
  • Toxicity and pesticides (such as atrazine herbicides and insecticides) Unmanaged toxic chemicals in urban watersheds can enter creeks via stormwater runoff.

You can read more about creek health indicators on the US EPA website. In addition, the California Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) provides bioassessment protocols and resources online.

SCVURPPP uses the latest statewide tools to report on creek health throughout the Santa Clara Valley.  The Program has managed and actively collaborated on local and regional monitoring activities. These include studies to assess water quality, beneficial uses in local creeks and the San Francisco Bay, and pollution (e.g. pesticides, toxic chemicals, sediment, pathogens) entering the Bay from local streams.

Check out the Library for the latest findings and reports.

Santa Clara Valley creek health data will be included in the interactive Water Quality Monitoring Data page.