High-resolution remote sensing of water quality in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary


The San Francisco Bay–Delta Estuary watershed is a major source of freshwater for California and a profoundly human-impacted environment. The water quality monitoring that is critical to the management of this important water resource and ecosystem relies primarily on a system of fixed water-quality monitoring stations, but the limited spatial coverage often hinders understanding. Here, we show how the latest technology in visible/near-infrared imaging spectroscopy can facilitate water quality monitoring in this highly dynamic and heterogeneous system by enabling simultaneous depictions of several water quality indicators at very high spatial resolution. The airborne portable remote imaging spectrometer (PRISM) was used to derive high-spatial-resolution (2.6 × 2.6 m) distributions of turbidity, and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and chlorophyll-a concentrations in a wetland-influenced region of this estuary. A filter-passing methylmercury vs DOC relationship was also developed using in situ samples and enabled the high-spatial-resolution depiction of surface methylmercury concentrations in this area. The results illustrate how high-resolution imaging spectroscopy can inform management and policy development in important inland and estuarine water bodies by facilitating the detection of point- and nonpoint-source pollution, and by providing data to help assess the complex impacts of wetland restoration and climate change on water quality and ecosystem productivity.

Environmental Science and Technology, 50(2), 2016