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By Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, Bay Nature
San Francisco Bay is clearing up. Its waters may never have the sparkle of a receding wave on Maui. But someday you might be able to walk out into the Bay till your belly button gets wet and still see your feet. As it turns out, however, this might not be such a good thing.
The Bay’s turbidity–its dirty, muddy, cloudy quality–is legendary among estuarine scientists. That’s why in 1999, when they conducted their annual monitoring of suspended sediment in Central Valley river flows into the Bay, they were shocked to find half as much as in the prior year. The sediment in question is mostly tiny mineral particles of silt and clay that can drift in the water or settle onto wet surfaces and make “mud.” The finding wasn’t a data glitch; sediment concentrations have stayed lower ever since. And it’s so big, scientists call it a “step change.”
While this step change may be intriguing to scientists–it has inspired a raft of new research–most people might be excused for not getting too worked up over having less mud in the Bay. Still, for marsh managers, it’s becoming topic No. 1.
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