Clean Water

The RCD Water Quality Program supports clean creeks, beaches and the ocean for humans and wildlife by working with property owners such as marinas, farms, ranches, parks, and homeowners to protect water quality. Work includes water quality monitoring, technical assistance, education/outreach, and identifying, planning, and implementing best management practices.

Water heroes take small actions to ensure clean water for all to enjoy. Simple choices, such as picking up pet waste in our yards and while on walks have big impacts.

Pledge to be a water hero today!

What small action(s) will you take to ensure clean water for all?

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San Pedro Creek and Pacifica State Beach Bacteria TMDL Monitoring

San Pedro Creek and Pacifica State Beach are listed as impaired water bodies on the Clean Water Act 303(d) list for bacteria, which suggest fecal contamination from warm-blooded animals such as wildlife, humans, dogs, and horses. In 2012, the Regional Water Board adopted a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) which requires monitoring to better characterize bacteria contributions and to asses compliance with load allocations. The RCD implements the characterization component of this monitoring plan for the City of Pacifica and the County to help identify bacteria hot spots and which land uses/sources contribute most to impairment.


Pillar Point Harbor Water Quality Assistance

This program involves working with the San Mateo Harbor District (HD) to prevent pollution and protect water quality of Pillar Point Harbor. The RCD identifies and plans improvements to both infrastructure and operations. The RCD also monitors water quality of drainages into the harbor and analyzes past and current information to better understand sources of bacterial pollution into the harbor and recommend solutions to a variety of stakeholders.

June 17, 2020 Regular Meeting of the Harbor Board of Commissioners


First Flush

First Flushis the first significant rain storm of the season that washes pollutants that have built up on the landscape into creeks, storm drains, and the ocean. This program is funded by Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside and the San Mateo Harbor District and involves monitoring by volunteers during this storm to provide information about a wide variety of pollutants such as bacteria, nutrients, and metals. This program is part of a larger initiative by the  Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to help identify what pollutants are of greatest concern and where. We rely on volunteers to help us collect water samples.

Check out a virtual tour of the 2019 results here. 
Read the report: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Dry Run and First Flush Monitoring 2019

Check out a virtual tour of the 2020 results here.


Rancho Corral de Tierra Water Quality Assistance

Rancho Corral de Tierra is ~4,000 acres of land in Montara and Moss Beach owned by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA)/National Park Service and uses include recreation, horse ranches and farms. This program is designed to establish water quality conditions at different times of year and over time to support good land management and therefore healthy creeks. Martini Creek, San Vicente Creek, Denniston Creek, and Sunshine/Dean Creek have been monitored since 2013 for bacteria, metals, and nutrients.

San Vicente Creek Bacteria Water Quality Monitoring

San Vicente Creek is as an impaired water body on the 303(d) list for bacteria. Typically, TMDL regulations are developed for water bodies on this list but a Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP) was instead developed as partners, such as Moss Beach Ranch and Ember Ridge Equestrian, have historically implemented remediation strategies voluntarily. Further, the water quality in the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, where San Vicente Creek discharges to, has improved and been removed from the 303(d) list. This program is designed to assist GGNRA and the County in improving water quality of the creek by characterizing bacteria in different areas and recommending solutions and best management practices to reduce bacteria.


Pet Waste Education and Outreach

Dog poop can be a significant source of bacteria, as a single dog produces more bacteria in one day than a person, a horse and a cow combined. When it rains, bacteria and organisms in dog waste flow to nearby waterways and beaches, and contaminate water used by swimmers, surfers, and sea life. The Pet Waste Education and Outreach program is in partnership with the County and includes dog waste cleanup events, school programs, flyers, social media, newsletters, and tabling at events to educate the community about the impacts of pet waste on our waterways.

Take the Scoop-the-Poop pledge and receive a free dog bag bag dispenser at


Other Assistance

The RCD provides a range of services related to water quality for landowners.  If grant funds are not available, landowners can contract with the RCD to provide services such as:

  • Water quality monitoring and technical assistance to help inform management decisions (ex: food safety for farms, riparian fencing for ranches, regulatory compliance)
  • Stormwater assistance for private properties (ex: harvesting rainwater, sustainable landscaping)
  • Watershed and water quality education/outreach (ex: school programs, summer camps, workshops)
  • Snapshot Day
  • Confined Animal Facility Technical Assistance
  • Residential Low Impact Development




RCD Contact: Noah Katz

Partners: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Mateo County Harbor District, Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside, Surfrider Foundation- San Mateo County Chapter, City of Pacifica