Taking Action: pH Findings Submitted to State

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SYRCL shared River Monitoring program data with the State Water Resources Control Board last month in an effort to draw the state’s attention to water quality in the Yuba. Of specific concern is a downward trend in pH over the last ten years, a trend most obvious in the headwaters of the South Yuba.  SYRCL river monitors have repeatedly detected pH values lower than 5 in the upper watershed, a pH which lies well below the standard of 6.5 set by the Water Quality Control Board’s Basin Plan and represents the most acidic a stream can be while still sustaining maximum biodiversity. The causes of low pH in the headwaters of the South Yuba River are not yet fully understood, and SYRCL will be leading the investigations along with scientists from the water board.


Graph showing pH at South Yuba water quality stations in order of increasing elevation.


Every two years, the SWRCB gathers information to determine additions or changes to the list of officially “impaired” water bodies.  The list, referred to as 303(d) due to the specific mandate in the Clean Water Act, guides state and federal resources for investigation and protection.  Two years ago, SYRCL data led to the addition of the South Yuba River as impaired with high water temperatures.  As a result, the state is committed to providing a protection plan by 2024, and we expect that this will contribute to our efforts to restore flows and riparian habitat.  It is hoped that with the state’s involvement in pH we can gain a better understanding of water quality in our watershed and, if necessary, take meaningful steps to improve pH in the upper South Yuba.

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