NOAA 03-467
Contact: Ben Sherman
NOAA News Releases 2003
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs


A dedicated cadre of citizen volunteers braved the elements today to help determine the amount of pollution the season’s first significant rains wash into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Close to 50 volunteers collected water samples from the rain’s “First Flush” at Pacific Grove, Monterey and Santa Cruz, Calif. Based on the findings from 18 collection sites, education programs and management practices can then be designed and prioritized to reduce pollution flowing into the sanctuary. The Monterey Bay Sanctuary is managed by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

This is the fourth year for the “First Flush” monitoring event that helps to determine the effects of months of accumulated litter, oil, chemicals and other pollutants washed off city streets and flushed through storm drains into the Monterey Bay Sanctuary. The storm water samples, collected by Monterey Bay Sanctuary Citizen Watershed Monitoring Network, will be analyzed for oil and grease, metals, nutrients, bacteria, sediment and toxicity. Unlike household sewage, storm drain pollution is not cleansed by sewage treatment plants.

“First Flush is not only a great hands-on community event, but the data collected by the volunteers provides very valuable information to local agencies that are working to improve the quality of the water flowing into the sanctuary,” said Monterey Bay Sanctuary Superintendent William J. Douros.

“First Flush” volunteers have been on-call since late September awaiting the rains. The groups mobilized in Santa Cruz at 5:30 a.m. and on the Monterey Peninsula at 7:10 a.m., to monitor storm drain discharges which will help in identifying areas with high pollutant loads.

With funding from the Monterey Bay Sanctuary this year’s event is being expanded to include urban watersheds in Half Moon Bay. Once significant rains fall in Half Moon Bay, local citizen volunteers will sample three different locations following the same protocols as those used for Monterey Bay.

“This will provide new information for a region that has fewer people and less development,” said Bridget Hoover, Citizen Watershed Monitoring Network Coordinator. “We are excited to learn the results and compare them with the data gathered in the more populated regions around Monterey Bay.”

The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Citizen Watershed Monitoring Network is a consortium of approximately 20 citizen monitoring groups that monitor the health of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The network was established in 1997 and has since provided support, training, and a central forum and database for citizen monitoring programs. “First Flush” is a collaborative effort involving the network and the Coastal Watershed Council. Funding is provided by Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and the cities of Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Santa Cruz.

Managed by NOAA, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary stretches along 276 miles of central California coast and encompasses over 5,300 miles of ocean area. Renowned for its scenic beauty and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary supports one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems, including 33 species of marine mammals, 94 species of seabirds, 345 species of fishes and thousands of marine invertebrates and plants.

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) seeks to increase public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources. In addition, the NMSP is now conducting a sanctuary designation process to consider incorporating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve into the national sanctuary system.

NOAA’s National Ocean Service manages the NMSP and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. The National Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

The Commerce Department’s NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic
security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

On the Web:


NOAA National Ocean Service:

National Marine Sanctuary Program:

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary:

Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation:

Citizen Watershed Monitoring Network and “First Flush 2002” results: