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Ocean Monitoring

Public Utilities ocean monitoring vesselThe Public Utilities Department's Ocean Monitoring Program is the preeminent leader in studying the effects of our regional wastewater treatment processes on the marine environment. There are currently two contiguous regions being monitored:

  • The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System mandated program surrounding the Point Loma Ocean Outfall, which handles wastewater discharged to the Pacific Ocean from the City's Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant.
  • The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System mandated program surrounding the South Bay Ocean Outfall, which discharges effluent originating from both the City's South Bay Water Reclamation Plant and the International Boundary and Water Commission's South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Octopus specimen in bottleThe coverage between these two programs extends 340 square miles total -- from northern San Diego to northern Baja California, Mexico -- and encompasses the shoreline seaward approximately 10 miles, to depths of over 500 meters (~1,640 feet).

More than 200 sampling days are typically conducted annually utilizing the Public Utilities' two monitoring vessels, the Oceanus and the Monitor III. Marine biologists use specialized sampling gear and instruments to collect the wide array of information necessary to define the ecological health of the ocean environment and to identify potential health concerns associated with the recreational use of San Diego's coastline.

Main Objectives

  • To ensure that the marine environment is protected.
  • To document changes in the marine environment over time and space.
  • To determine the quality of recreational water where citizens swim, dive and fish.
  • To differentiate between natural changes and those that may be caused by the sewage discharge.
  • To measure compliance with state and federal regulations.

What's Sampled

Ocean Monitoring Reports

Ocean Monitoring Data

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