Surface Water Monitoring

Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP)

The SWAMP mission is to provide resource managers, decision makers, and the public with timely, high-quality information to evaluate the condition of all waters throughout California. SWAMP accomplishes this through carefully designed, externally reviewed monitoring programs, and by assisting other entities state-wide in the generation of comparable data that can be brought together in integrated assessments that provide answers to current management questions.

For additional information about the SWAMP program please visit the state-wide SWAMP webpage at:

North Coast Regional Water Board reports, documents, and fact sheets can be found at the following webpage:

NORTH COAST ALGAE AND NUTRIENTS STUDY 2010-2011, South Fork River and Russian River – August 2021

Cyanobacteria Harmful Algal Blooms

Algae and cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue green algae, are natural components of healthy marine and freshwater ecosystems. Under certain water quality conditions algae and cyanobacteria can rapidly multiply causing nuisance "blooms." A small number of cyanobacteria species are capable of producing toxins that can be harmful to animals and humans; however not all blooms include these toxin producing cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs) are of special concern because of their potential impacts on drinking water, recreation in lakes and rivers, and effects on fish and wildlife.

In recent years, there has been an increased frequency and severity of cyanoHABs around the world, including the North Coast Region. The Regional Water Board has received reports of freshwater nuisance blooms and algal scums, animal illnesses, and on occasion, human health impacts within the North Coast.

The risk factors that contribute to freshwater cyanoHABs and nuisance blooms include nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) enriched waters, warming climate, and lower flows.  The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) is working to reduce risk factors through its water quality improvement programs.

There is a current need to manage freshwater cyanoHAB blooms through improved monitoring, assessment, and increased educational outreach. Regional Water Board staff are collaborating with county public and environmental health officials and other federal, state, county, and non-governmental organizations to address these needs.


The California Cyanobacteria and Harmful Algal Bloom (CCHAB) Network is a workgroup of   California Water Quality Monitoring Council.  The mission of the CCHAB network is to work towards the development and maintenance of a comprehensive, coordinated program to identify and address the causes and impacts of cyanobacteria and harmful algal blooms (HABs) in California.

To meet the mission, the CCHAB network developed the California Harmful Algal Blooms Portal to provide an informational resource for the public and to function as a tool to support coordination with statewide partners to address HABs.  Accessing the portal webpage provides the public and response organizations with a central location to access resources and tools to aid in identifying, reporting, and responding to HABs.

A few of these resources include;

To Report a Bloom please visit the following webpage:

To view a current map of HAB Incidents please visit the following webpage:

To obtain California Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom Field Guides and Standard Operating Procedures please visit:

Information and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) documents:

Healthy Water Habits:
HAB signage:
Human Health Impacts:
Drinking Water Resources:

Additional information and resources can be found at the California Harmful Algal Blooms Portal

Reports and Documents

Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom End of Year Summary 2023

End of Year Summary: During 2023, the Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom (FHAB) Monitoring & Response Program at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board responded to FHAB reports and illnesses, worked with partners on routine monitoring, performed pre-holiday assessments, conducted studies and research, reported and presented study findings, provided program trainings, and continued to aid partners in developing and implementing their own FHAB programs.

Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom (FHAB) Partner Training - Presentation Recording - Captions

Training Summary: The Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom (FHAB) Monitoring & Response Program at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board held a virtual training on August 23, 2023, for local partners. During the training, staff from the FHAB Program presented on all aspects of partner monitoring, including visually identifying cyanobacterial blooms, conducting simple field tests, reporting FHABs, collecting samples for laboratory analysis, and posting advisory signs. The training also covered the online location of FHAB Program guides and resources as well as provided recommendations for a successful benthic monitoring program in rivers. At the end of the presentation, local partners participated in a question and answer period. For presentation slides, please contact Mike Thomas, FHAB Regional Coordinator, at

Benthic Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxin Monitoring in Northern California Rivers, 2016-2019 – NEW Feb 2022

Report Summary: Benthic cyanobacterial blooms in California’s North Coast Region pose a health risk to the recreating public and are responsible for several dog deaths in the Eel, South Fork Eel, and Russian Rivers. To better understand benthic cyanobacterial growth and cyanotoxin production in these rivers, extensive monitoring was conducted from 2016 to 2019 using multiple monitoring approaches. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board identified several toxigenic cyanobacteria of concern (Anabaena Microcoleus [Phormidium], Oscillatoria) and a class of potent neurotoxins (anatoxins) that frequently occurred at high concentrations within benthic mats during the summer months until early fall. The Regional Water Board recommends visual surveillance of toxigenic cyanobacterial mats as a primary tool for monitoring potential health risks in riverine systems, as well as Solid Phase Adsorption Toxin Tracking (SPATT) samplers to determine when cyanotoxins are present and increasing in concentration, and periodic laboratory cyanotoxin testing of benthic mats (using ELISA) to determine the potential health risks associated with river recreation.

Cyanotoxin Monitoring with SPATT Passive Samplers in Northern California Rivers, 2019 – NEW December 2022

Report Summary: This special study conducted by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board evaluated varying deployment lengths for Solid Phase Adsorption Toxin Tracking (SPATT) samplers in rivers with benthic cyanobacteria and recommends a four- to eight-day deployment length to characterize cyanotoxin concentrations in these river systems. This study also demonstrates: the ability of SPATTs to adsorb low level cyanotoxins that may not be captured with discrete water grab samples; the ability of SPATTs to effectively characterize anatoxin-a, a potent neurotoxin of concern; and the preferred use of HP20 resin when comparing two commercially available resins. The results of this study are intended to inform waterbody managers and public health officials on how to utilize this monitoring tool to inform decisions and appropriate response action for the protection of the recreating public and pets from benthic cyanobacteria and their cyanotoxins.

A Deeper Look at HABs

In early 2019, the Regional Board collaborated with cyanobacteria researchers from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to produce an article that was included in the Summer 2019 LakeLine magazine published in early September by the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS). The focus of the article was to introduce those who manage aquatic systems to the risks associated with benthic cyanobacteria and highlight the current shortcomings regarding available guidance and criteria for dealing with benthic Cyanobacteria Harmful Algal Blooms (CyanoHABs).

To Report a Bloom Please visit the  following webpage:

Additional information and resources can be found at the California Harmful Algal Blooms Portal

Sonoma County Wildfires Response Monitoring

Surface waters within and downstream of areas affected by the 2017 and 2019 wildfires in Sonoma County include impaired waterbodies, endangered species habitat, and the source water for drinking water systems. During storm events, surface waters may be affected by pollutants in runoff from burn areas. Regional Water Board staff and watershed partners have conducted monitoring to determine the status of water quality during storm events in the areas affected by the fires.  Monitoring conducted by Regional Water Board staff focused on characterizing water quality above and below the areas that were destroyed by the fire.
Reports and Resources

Contact Information

If you have questions about SWAMP, surface water monitoring, or cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms please contact:

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