Lower Salinas River Watershed

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The Lower Salinas River Watershed is the name given by the Regional Water Quality Control Board Central Coast Region to the lower portion of the Salinas River and the Salinas Reclamation Canal. Although composed of several sub-watersheds, the name Lower Salinas River Watershed is commonly used to define the geographic scope of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) projects in the region.

The Lower Salinas River Watershed. Map by Alberola G. 2011


Disambiguation

The Salinas River starts in the La Panza Range, in San Luis Obispo County, and drains into the Salinas River Lagoon. At times of the year, the Salinas River also flows through a man-made canal, the Old Salinas River, into the Moss Landing Harbor.

The waters from a smaller watershed, the Reclamation Canal (or Reclamation Ditch) watershed (also known as Gabilan Waterhed), also drain into the Moss Landing Harbor. For administrative purposes, the term Lower Salinas River Watershed is sometimes used to encompass both the lower portion of the Salinas River Watershed and the Reclamation Canal Watershed.

Location and Description

Located in Monterey County, the Lower Salinas River Watershed is the watershed area of the Salinas River from Gonzales Road downstream to its confluence with Moss Landing Harbor.

The Reclamation Canal in the Lower Salinas River Watershed. Photo by Lanctot M. 2011

Surface water sources include precipitation, releases from reservoirs, groundwater, and return flows from agricultural irrigation. Mean annual precipitation in the area ranges from approximately 13 to 16 inches per year with the majority of precipitation occurring between November and April.

Land use in the project area includes intensive agriculture as well as the urban centers of Salinas, Castroville and Prunedale.

The Lower Salinas River Watershed area is characterized by both ephemeral and perennial stream reaches, as the Lower Salinas River runs dry during the summer months, and in comparison the lower Reclamation Ditch flows year-round.

Environmental Concerns

Several water bodies in both the Lower Salinas River watershed and in the Reclamation Canal Watershed have been listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act. The 2010 303(d) list of impaired water bodies in the Lower Salinas Watershed lists nineteen water bodies for nine different pollutant categories as follows:

Water Body Pollutant Category
Alisal Creek Nutrients, Pathogens, Salinity
Alisal Slough Nutrients, Toxicity
Blanco Drain Nutrients, Pesticides, Sediment
Chualar Creek Miscellaneous, Nutrients, Pathogens, Pesticides, Sediment, Toxicity
Esperanza Creek Nutrients
Espinosa Slough Miscellaneous, Nutrients, Other Organics, Pesticides, Sediment, Toxicity
Gabilan Creek Miscellaneous, Nutrients, Pathogens, Sediment, Toxicity
Merrit Ditch Nutrients, Sediment, Toxicity
Moro Cojo Slough Miscellaneous, Nutrients, Pathogens, Pesticides, Sediment
Moss Landing Harbor Metals/Metalloids, Miscellaneous, Nutrients, Pathogens, Pesticides, Sediment,Toxicity
Natividad Creek Miscellaneous, Nutrients, Pathogens, Sediment, Toxicity
Old Salinas River Miscellaneous, Nutrients, Pathogens, Pesticides, Sediment, Toxicity
Old Salinas River Estuary Nutrients, Pesticides
Quail Creek Miscellaneous, Nutrients, Pathogens, Pesticides, Sediment, Toxicity
Salinas Reclamation Canal Nutrients, Other Organics, Pathogens, Pesticides, Sediment, Toxicity
Salinas River (lower, estuary to near Gonzales Rd

Crossing)

Miscellaneous, Nutrients, Other Organics, Pathogens, Pesticides, Salinity, Sediment, Toxicity
Salinas River Lagoon (North) Nutrients, Pesticides
Santa Rita Creek Nutrients, Pathogens, Salinity, Sediment
Tembladero Slough Miscellaneous, Nutrients, Pathogens, Pesticides, Sediment, Toxicity

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