SWAMP Banner

SWAMP - History

The Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) was created in 2000 in response to Assembly Bill 982 (Ducheny, Statutes of 1999). The SWAMP program fulfills this State legislative mandate for a unifying program that coordinates all water quality monitoring conducted by the State and Regional Water Boards. In order to protect our public water resources, SWAMP monitoring helps assess attainment of all core beneficial uses (swimming, fishing, etc.) in all waterbody types, such as our streams, lakes, wetlands and estuaries.

The SWAMP monitoring strategy (SWAMP, 2005) was based on the USEPA's (2003) 'Elements of a State Water Monitoring and Assessment Program' and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council framework. The Program is guided by a Roundtable of experienced State and Regional Water Board monitoring coordinators. SWAMP has continuing access to university and State and Federal agency experts in chemistry, toxicology, ecology, and hydrology, and has undergone two formal scientific reviews by external national and international experts. In 2006, there was a comprehensive program evaluation by the expert Scientific Planning and Review Committee (SPARC). The SPARC comments were incorporated into SWAMP planning for all future water quality monitoring.

The first few years of the SWAMP program were dedicated primarily to supporting Regional Water Board programs. In this endeavor, SWAMP developed the monitoring infrastructure and tools necessary to enhance data comparability and data sharing (SWAMP Standard Operating Procedures, Quality Assurance Program, and Data Management Program).

The SPARC Report (2006) commended SWAMP's monitoring infrastructure and Regional Water Board program support. In addition, this review applauded the Regional Water Boards' entrepreneurial spirit and their ability to leverage efforts. However, it also recommended to SWAMP that it expand its efforts to develop robust statewide water quality assessments, as well as a statewide framework to provide information to a diversity of users for multiple purposes. To meet these goals, the SWAMP needed to design and implement probability-based statewide surveys. SWAMP also prioritizes its monitoring efforts to address declining budgets and simultaneously seeks to maximize the utility of water quality data collected by various Water Board programs.

In response to the SPARC (2006) review, SWAMP has also shifted its strategy toward greater collaboration with a wide array of partners. This includes greater integration of SWAMP monitoring and assessment activities with other Water Board programs and a diversity of other partners. SWAMP initiated efforts on many statewide and regional fronts to align sites and schedules with partners who monitor similar waterbody types and beneficial uses. These partners include stormwater agencies, municipal wastewater dischargers, and irrigated lands regulatory programs. SWAMP is continuing its outreach and coordination with these groups.

The California Water Quality Monitoring Council (CWQMC) was convened in 2008 as a result of Senate Bill 1070 (Kehoe), enacted in 2006. The CWQMC is tasked with improving the efficiency and effectiveness of water quality and related ecosystem monitoring, assessment, and reporting efforts throughout California through enhanced coordination. The Council's goal is to improve the delivery of water quality and related ecosystem health information to decision makers and the public.

In June 2010, SWAMP and the CWQMC held a joint meeting to align their respective strategies. It was agreed that the SWAMP would focus its limited funds for statewide assessments on two overarching questions: "Is it safe to eat the fish?" and "Are ecosystems protected in freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes?" Monitoring of other beneficial uses and in other waters would be coordinated through other Monitoring Council workgroups. By working with partners and within the CWQMC framework, these coordinated strategies seek to address the maximum number of water quality management needs for as many of our state waters as possible. Currently, SWAMP's Bioaccumulation Monitoring Program evaluates whether fish caught in popular fishing spots throughout the state are safe to eat; and SWAMP's Bioassessment and Stream Pollution Trends Monitoring Programs assess ecosystem health in freshwater streams. SWAMP's newest statewide program, the Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom program, evaluates threats to recreational and drinking water beneficial uses posed by algal toxins.

In addition, when CWQMC and SWAMP aligned strategies, it was agreed that SWAMP would continue to expand use of its infrastructure and tools through collaborative efforts with other Water Board programs and diverse external partners. SWAMP provides a suite of monitoring and assessment, data quality assurance, and data management tools to help other programs produce comparable data. This effort to enhance data comparability and data sharing through increased coordination is outlined in the 2010 SWAMP Strategy (which also serves as Appendix 5 to the CWQMC's comprehensive monitoring program strategy for California). This component of SWAMP is overseen by the SWAMP Information Quality (SWAMP IQ) group at the State Water Board.