Measuring the Estuary's Health

Unlike other world-class natural areas, there was no measure of the health of the San Francisco Bay and its watershed until The Bay Institute published the first comprehensive assessment of the estuary’s health in 2003. The first San Francisco Bay Index was updated in 2005.

Based on state-of-the-art theory and applications and reviewed by the nation’s leading indicators experts and estuarine scientists, the Ecological Scorecard Project’s Bay Index combined a wide range of multi-metric indicators into eight indexes that evaluate fish, bird and invertebrate communities; measure flow, habitat and water quality conditions; and rate human uses of and impacts on the Bay-Delta environment.

In 2011, the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, created by the State of California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, released “The State of San Francisco Bay 2011,” which presents an updated picture of the estuary’s health. The new results confirm The Bay Institute’s previous findings that Bay fisheries and the food web are continuing to deteriorate, along with freshwater flow conditions and open water habitat. But water quality continues to improve, dumping of dredged sediments has been sharply curtailed, and initiatives to restore wetlands and use water more efficiently are moving forward. The new report was co-authored by scientists from the Bay Institute and builds to a great degree on our Ecological Scorecard project.

Click here to go the Ecological Scorecard page in our publication section.