Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Simplified Approach for Estimating Ionic Concentrations from Specific Conductance Data in the San Francisco Estuary


This work presents a simplified approach for estimating ionic concentrations from specific electrical conductance (EC) data in the San Francisco Estuary. Monitoring the EC of water through electrodes is simple and inexpensive. As a result, a wealth of high-resolution time-series data is available to indirectly estimate salinity concentrations and, by extension, seawater intrusion throughout the study domain. However, scientists and managers are also interested in quantifying ionic (e.g., bromide, chloride) and total dissolved solids (TDS) concentrations to meet water-quality regulations, protect beneficial uses, support environmental analyses, and track source-water dominance. These constituent concentrations, reported with lower spatial and temporal resolution than EC, are typically measured in the laboratory from discrete (grab) water samples. We divided the study domain into four unique regions to estimate concentrations of major ions and TDS as mathematical functions of measured or model-simulated EC. Salinity relationships in three of the four regions—regions that represent Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) inflow and seawater-dominated boundaries—reflect ionic make-ups that are either independent of or weakly dependent on season and hydrologic condition, and are highly correlated with EC. The fourth region—represented by the interior Delta—exhibits salinity characteristics associated with complex-boundary source-water mixing that varies by season and hydrologic condition. We introduce a novel method to estimate ionic and dissolved solids concentrations within this fourth region, given month, water year type, and (optionally) X2 isohaline position, which allows for more accurate EC-based estimates than previously available. The resulting approach, while not a substitute for hydrodynamic modeling, can provide useful information under constrained schedules and budgets.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View