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.
Monthly WQM Report
Lower San Diego River – October 2013
October WQM Report, Page 1
Lower San Diego River Water Quality Index Oct. 2005 to Present
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
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
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.
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.
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.
October WQM Report, Page 4
Chart 1 – LSDR WQI Trendlines by Reach (Sept ’05 thru Oct ’13)
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
Lower Santee Basin (East)
Lower Mission Valley(West)
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
October WQM Report, Page 5
Chart 2 – Mast Park (Site13) Monthly & Running Average WQI
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.
October WQM Report, Page 6
Chart 3 – LSDR Spatial WQI Profile for Oct. 2013
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
Water Quality Index
This Month (Oct.’13)
9-Yr Oct. Average
Last Mo (Sept.’13)
Last Yr (Oct.’12