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Why Our River Is A Mess

 

 

 

Living on the San Diego River can be amazing.  For a while, it seemed to change every day.  It could be dark green and deep, beautiful with a flowing current.  Living here gives you a sense of being on a camping vacation every day, just by looking at it. Yet we are still in central San Diego.

Since it is a nature preserve, many wild creatures come and go,making the river their home.  Some permanent, some temporary.I remember when the river had a murder of crows that nested in a tree, just off our balcony.  They would wake us up every morning and greet the sunset near our place every night. They sure did pester us, but it was a lively sign of nature. Then there was the time that a whole family of turtles appeared on the riverbank.  There was this huge floating leaf that they nested on the opposite side of the river, and before we knew it, we could see a bunch of baby turtles through our binoculars.  With the next rain though, they were gone. Apparently, there are fish in the river too, and even a few hardy souls who kayak there that want to get away from their wife and kids for a few hours for some catch and release fishing, floated their torsos in the boat and their feet in the water when the level was higher.

The problem lately, is that not enough rain and too much algae make the river look ugly now.   After researching the causes for this, by contacting the San Diego River Park Foundation,River Watch Coordinator, Shannon Quigley Raymond, I found out that basically this is due to a lack of rain.  Rainfall has been very low this autumn and the river foundation has decided to not introduce any chemicals to reduce algae and just let nature take its course.  Nutrient level aren’t particularly high and there are no increased phosphate or nitrate levels either.  However, there are high levels of conductivity which the River Watch is concerned about. It doesn’t look pretty, and if the housing market wasn’t so tight, it might affect property values.

Supposedly, the River Park Foundation hasn’t concluded that this is due to climate change or an inordinate amount of pollution from any unusual source as the water quality chart below indicates. The algae also increases the amount of mosquitoes that affect local residents.  We had to install a screen door to keep from being bitten. Mosquito Abatement flies helicopters with insecticide that Raymond of the River Watch claims are not harmful to humans.  After contacting, the county water department, http://www.sandiego.gov/water, the San Diego Environmental Health Department,http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/deh/about/contact.html and Andrew Hughan of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, http://www.dfg.ca.gov/news/contact.html, Raymond of the River Watch was the most helpful and knowledgeable.

If anyone is concerned about the algae and the river’s water quality, and wants to volunteer, the San Diego River Foundation River Watch is having a river monitoring meeting, Sunday, Nov. 17 at 8AM at 4891 Pacific Highway #114, San Diego, 92110.

River Chart 2

 

Monthly WQM Report

Lower San Diego River – October 2013

SDRPF RiverWatch

October WQM Report, Page 1

Lower San Diego River Water Quality Index Oct. 2005 to Present

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O N D J F MA M J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D J F MA M J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D J F MA M J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D J F MA M J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O

WY05 WY06 WY07 WY08 WY09 WY10 WY11 WY12 WY13

WQI

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LSDR Monthly Avg. WQI

LSDR (12 mo) Running Avg.

Highest WQI (MG Reach)

Lowest WQI (USB Reach)

SDR WQM Data Summary

Table 1 presents a summary of water quality data monitored by the SDRPF RiverWatch Team

within the Lower San Diego River watershed over the past two months. October, the first month of

fall, is also the first month of Water Year 2014. This month’s water quality index values are

greater than last month, but below a year ago and the 9-year average of the month. This summer

(June-Sept) represented the lowest seasonal water quality readings monitored since the

RiverWatch program began in 2004. This month represents the start toward a return to normal

water quality conditions for this season of the year.

Table 1 – Oct/Sept 2013 WQM Data Summery

West – MV Mid – MG East – SB LSDR Percent Variance from

[Sites] [1-7]

Oct/Sept

[8-10]

Oct/Sept

[11-15]

Oct/Sept

[1-15]

Oct/Sept

Last Mo

(Sept’13)

Last Yr

(Oct’12)

9-Yr Avg

(October)

Temp, oC 18.5/21.3 14.6/20.5 16.6/21.1 16.9/21.0 -19% -12% -9%

Sp.Cond., mS/cm 3.10/3.43 2.29/3.60 2.32/2.57 2.70/3.26 -17% -8% -5%

DO, mg/L 4.06/3.59 6.89/4.76 2.88/3.01 4.42/3.69

20% -2% -6%

DO, % of Sat. 44/41 67/53 29/34 45/42

pH 7.34/7.74 7.94/7.73 8.40/8.02 7.8/7.75 -1% -2% 2%

ADF, cfs 1.2/0.7 1.9/0.4 2.6/0.2 1.5/0.4 300% 2% -74%

WQ Index 21/14 33/8 14/9 21/11

94% 1% -18%

Grade E/E D/F E/F+ E/E-

Aug ‘13 WQI Poor Marginal Poor Poor Up 10 from last month

Overall LSDR water temperatures dropped about 3 degrees from last month, 2 degrees below

last October and 1 degree below the 9-Yr average. Specific conductivity values are slightly lower

than last month (down 17%), last Oct. (down 8%) and the 9-yr average (down 5%). Dissolved

oxygen levels improved from last month by 20% to comparable to last Oct. and the 9-yr averages.

Streamflows are also up significantly from last month but still below last Oct. and the 9-yr.

monthly average. The overall LSDR water quality index (WQI) of 21 (E) is 10 points (94%) above

last month’s value of 11(E-), the same as last Oct. but below the 9-yr October average. Conclusion:

San Diego River water quality index climbed 10 points, from 11(E-) to 21(E)

remaining in the Poor range, over the past 30 days.

SDRPF RiverWatch

October WQM Report, Page 2

Overall October water quality values are slightly below normal for this time of the year at most

monitoring sites. Lowest values were monitored in the Upper Santee Basin reach while the

MissionValley section showed highest.

Table 2 – WQI Values, Average Daily Flow and Monthly Rainfall (Oct’11 – Oct’13)

Mission Vly Missn Gorge Santee Bsn LSDR ADF, cfs RF, in

Oct 24(E+) 53(B) 23(E) 29(D) 4.4 0.46

Nov 52(B-) 77(A-) 37(C-) 51(B-) WW 24 3.12

Dec 45(C) 57(B) 29(D) 41(C) WW 19 0.86

Jan’12 53(B-) 57(B) 30(D) 45(C) 15 0.40

Feb 54(B) 64(B) 33(D) 47(C) WW 31 1.19

March 48(C+) 60(B) 29(D) 43(C) WW 99 0.97

April 44(C) 59(B) 28(D) 41(C) WW 18 0.88

May 23(E+) 51(B-) 22(E) 28(D) 5.0 0.02

June 21(E) 44(C) 19(E) 25(D-) DW 2.7 0.00

July 19(E) 36(C-) 16(E) 21(E) DW 1.5 0.00

Aug 22(E) 17(E) 16(E) 18(E) DW 1.4 0.00

Sept 20(E) 6(F) 11(E) 13(E) DW 1.2 0.00

Oct 21(E) 33(D+) 15(E) 21(E) 2.0 0.70

Nov 33(D+) 62(B) 22(E) 34(D+) 2.3 0.28

Dec 42(C) 59(B) 35(C-) 43(C) WW 22 2.18

Jan’13 68(B) 69(B) 37(C-) 56(B) WW 17 1.21

Feb 60(B) 63(B) 33(D+) 50(B-) WW 23 0.63

March 56(B) 80(A) 38(C-) 53(B-) WW 28 1.22

April 47(C) 60(B) 27(D) 41(C) DW 7.1 0.02

May 25(D-) 42(C) 17(E) 25(D-) 5.7 0.26

June 19(E) 26(D-) 14(E) 19(E) DW 1.8 0.00

July 6(F) 9(F+) 7(F) 7(F) DW 1.7 0.05

Aug 18(E) 19(E) 10(E) 15(E) DW 0.9 0.00

Sept 14(E) 8(F) 9(F+) 11(E-) DW 0.5 0.00

Oct ’13 21(E) 33(D) 14(E) 21(E) 1.9 0.06

WQI expected to increase over the next month at most monitoring sites.

SDRPF RiverWatch

October WQM Report, Page 3

A summary of WQI values occurring over the past two years for the three sections of the lower

river are listed in Table 2 along with average daily streamflow and total monthly rainfall. The

MG section of the river exhibited best overall quality.

The chart on the cover page of this report shows overall monthly WQI values for the Lower San

Diego River determined over the past 109 months of continuous WQ monitoring. Dry season

(July-Oct) values for 2013 are represented by colored-shaded bars. The LSDR running average

values are shown as a heavy red line. Monthly values for the consistently highest WQI reach

(Mission Gorge) are shown as a blue line while the consistently lowest WQI reach (Upper Santee

Basin) are shown as a dashed black line. The broad range in monthly values as well as cyclic

patterns and trends over the past 9 years are evident.

WQI values extending from Sept. 2005 through Oct. 2013 are presented in Chart 1 below together

with trend lines (12-month running averages) for each reach of the river and overall (LSDR). The

12-mo. running averages, increasing throughout WY10 and WY11 with exception of the Upper

Santee Basin, have been in general decline during WY12 and WY13. The current running average

WQI for the LSDR of 31.0 is over 13% below the 9-year norm of 35.8 representing the lowest

running average value since the monitoring effort began in 2004.

SDRPF RiverWatch

October WQM Report, Page 4

Chart 1 – LSDR WQI Trendlines by Reach (Sept ’05 thru Oct ’13)

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SONDJ FMAMJ JASONDJ FMAMJ JASONDJ FMAMJ JASONDJ FMAMJ JASONDJ FMAMJ JASONDJ FMAMJ JASONDJ FMAMJ JASONDJ FMAMJ JASO

WY06 WY07 WY08 WY09 WY10 WY11 WY12 WY13

Water Quality Index

Mission Gorge

Lower Santee Basin (East)

Lower Mission Valley(West)

LSDR Avg.

LSDR Mo.WQI

Upper Mission Valley (West)

Upper Santee Basin (East)

WQI values (monthly and 12-mo running averages) for Mast Park (Site 13) are plotted in Chart 2

below. Water quality at this site, in decline from early 2009, showed some improvement this past

winter following last year’s water primrose removal effort. DO levels have however remained well

below minimums for healthy aquatic life since May of this year. With exception of four months last

winter (Dec-March), the water quality index at this site has been below 10 (F- Very Poor) since

January of 2012.

Spatial WQI results for October 2013 are shown in Chart 3 on the last page of this report. WQI

values (color bars w/index values in black) for this month are higher than last month (dashed red

line w/values in pink) at all but sites 4 and 9T. Current values are lower than those recorded last

October (dashed blue line) at most sites however several are above the 9-yr monthly average

(black line w/values in bold orange). The water quality index is expected to continue improving

over the next month as streamflow and oxygen levels increase while water temperature and

SDRPF RiverWatch

October WQM Report, Page 5

Chart 2 – Mast Park (Site13) Monthly & Running Average WQI

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SOND J FMAM J J A SOND J FMAM J J A SOND J FMAM J J A SOND J FMAM J J A SOND J FMAM J J A SOND J FMAM J J A SOND J FMAM J J A SOND J FMAM J J A SO

WY06 WY07 WY08 WY09 WY10 WY11 WY12 WY13

Running Average (12mo) WQI

Site 13 Mo. WQI

Site 13 Run Avg

conductivity values decline. The dry season that began early this year presents a precipitation todate

annual deficit of a 3.4-inches over a 30-yr period of record. The Lower San Diego River

system experienced its poorest running average water quality in nine years of RiverWatch

monitoring. Ten sites are in the Poor (E) water quality range, while two more remain in the Very

Poor (F) range. Only two sites (3 & 10) were found in the Fair (35-50) range. Conditions are

expected to improve somewhat next month as flows increase and waters continue to reoxygenate.

(jck 10/26/13)

SDRPF RiverWatch

October WQM Report, Page 6

Chart 3 – LSDR Spatial WQI Profile for Oct. 2013

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9T 10 11 12T 15T 13 14

Lower Mission Valley (LMV) Upper Mission Valley (UMV) Mission Gorge (MG) Lower Santee Basin (LSB) Upper Santee Basin

(USB)

Water Quality Index

This Month (Oct.’13)

9-Yr Oct. Average

Last Mo (Sept.’13)

Last Yr (Oct.’12

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Theater Mosquito Dream

Dreamed last night about an old theater I was in, because I was working in the show, and I had to go to the bathroom. I went in the bathroom to pee and there were a bunch of mosquitoes that bit me
all over my body and made me itch. It was awful. It was a relief to wake up and take a shower!

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