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Ocean Monitoring

200+

days at sea annually

340

square miles sampled

5,000+

samples collected annually

The Public Utilities Department's Ocean Monitoring Program (OMP) is the preeminent leader in studying the effects of our regional wastewater treatment processes on the marine environment. The OMP covers over 340 square miles - from northern San Diego to northern Baja California, Mexico - from the shoreline to approximately 10 miles offshore, to depths of over 1,600 feet.

The OMP is a requirement of three National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for the City's Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant and South Bay Water Reclamation Plant, and for the International Boundary & Water Commission's South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Sampling focuses on the regions surrounding the Point Loma Ocean Outfall and the South Bay Ocean Outfall where treated wastewater is discharged to the Pacific Ocean via the treatment plants mentioned above. More than 200 sampling days are typically conducted annually utilizing the City's two ocean monitoring vessels. Marine biologists use specialized sampling gear and instruments to collect the wide array of data needed to understand the ecological health of the ocean environment surrounding the outfalls to identify potential health concerns associated with the recreational use of San Diego's coastline.

  • A marine biologist collects a water sample from the conductivity temperature depth profiler, also known as a CTD.A marine biologist collects a water sample from the conductivity temperature depth profiler, also known as a CTD.
  • A marine biologist processes a bongo net tow by washing all material from the nets down to a bottle at the narrow end of the net.A marine biologist processes a bongo net tow by washing all material from the nets down to a bottle at the narrow end of the net.
  • A marine biologist runs the winch, which raises and lowers oceanographic equipment from the stern of the vessel.A marine biologist runs the winch, which raises and lowers oceanographic equipment from the stern of the vessel.
  • Marine biologists sort fishes collected during trawl community sampling by species before weighing and measuring each species.Marine biologists sort fishes collected during trawl community sampling by species before weighing and measuring each species.
  • A marine biologist examines a sample for species characteristics and identifying features.A marine biologist examines a sample for species characteristics and identifying features.
  • A marine biologist sets up their rig fishing rod to collect fish for tissue burden analyses that monitor the levels of potential contaminants in fish liver and muscle tissues.A marine biologist sets up their rig fishing rod to collect fish for tissue burden analyses that monitor the levels of potential contaminants in fish liver and muscle tissues.
  • A marine biologist examines a sample collected from bongo net sampling to monitor the zooplankton community.A marine biologist examines a sample collected from bongo net sampling to monitor the zooplankton community.
  • Marine biologists collect water samples for ocean acidification analyses from the conductivity temperature depth profiler, also known as a CTD.Marine biologists collect water samples for ocean acidification analyses from the conductivity temperature depth profiler, also known as a CTD.
  • The Scanfish, a remotely operated towed vehicle sits on the aft deck before deployment. This instrument enhances the collection of water quality data and provides high-resolution maps of plume dispersion and location.The Scanfish, a remotely operated towed vehicle sits on the aft deck before deployment. This instrument enhances the collection of water quality data and provides high-resolution maps of plume dispersion and location.
  • A marine biologist holds an octopus collected during trawl community sampling.A marine biologist holds an octopus collected during trawl community sampling.
  • A marine biologist examines a benthic infauna sample to identify and count invertebrates such as worms, urchins, and sea stars.A marine biologist examines a benthic infauna sample to identify and count invertebrates such as worms, urchins, and sea stars.
  • A marine biologist measures a fish collected during trawl community sampling.A marine biologist measures a fish collected during trawl community sampling.

Main Objectives

    • Document changes in the marine environment.
    • Determine the quality of recreational waters.
    • Differentiate between natural and anthropogenic changes.
    • Measure compliance with state and federal regulations.
    • Protect San Diego's marine environment.