AK current

Domoic Acid at SCW
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SCW water color
Color system
Santa Cruz Harbor

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Water color varies through time, from blues and greens to gray, brown, and even bright orange. Many factors contribute to what we see when we look at the water, including turbidity, light level, weather, and phytoplankton.

Find more photos of the Santa Cruz water color on Instagram at #scwwatercolor. If you are in Santa Cruz, add your own!


What color is the water near you? Print out the PDF below and take it with you on your next trip to the ocean. Color names are matched to Sherwin-Williams paint colors.

Click here for a printable PDF.

Who picks the colors?

The 32 colors used here were selected from the Munsell color system. The Munsell system is commonly used in oceanography, as well as other fields ranging from soil science to dentistry, forensics, even beer brewing! The complete color chart is below. Click here for a printable PDF.