The SFPUC’s Water Quality Division (WQD) regularly collects and tests water samples from reservoirs and designated sampling points throughout the system to ensure the water delivered to you meets or exceeds federal and state drinking water standards. In 2018, WQD staff conducted more than 57,690 drinking water tests in the source, transmission, and distribution system. This is in addition to the extensive treatment process control monitoring performed by the SFPUC’s certified operators and online instruments.
Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk. In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the USEPA and SWRCB-DDW prescribe regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations and California law also establish limits for contaminants in bottled water that provide the same protection for public health.
Supplied by the San Francisco Regional Water System (SFRWS), which is owned and operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), our major water source originates from spring Yosemite National Park snowmelt flowing down the Tuolumne River to storage in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The well protected Sierra water source is exempt from filtration requirements by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water (SWRCB-DDW). Water from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir receives the following treatment to meet the appropriate drinking water standards for consumption: ultraviolet light and chlorine disinfection, pH adjustment for optimum corrosion control, fluoridation for dental health protection, and chloramination for maintaining disinfectant residual and minimizing the formation of regulated disinfection byproducts.
The Hetch Hetchy water is supplemented with surface water from local watersheds and upcountry non-Hetch Hetchy sources (UNHHS). Rainfall and runoff from the 35,000-acre Alameda Watershed in Alameda and Santa Clara counties are collected in Calaveras Reservoir and San Antonio Reservoir before delivery to the Sunol Valley Water Treatment Plant (SVWTP). In 2018, the UNHHS was not used. Water at the Sunol Valley Treatment Plant is subject to filtration, disinfection, fluoridation, optimum corrosion control, and taste and odor removal.
The SFPUC conducts watershed sanitary surveys for the Hetch Hetchy source annually and the local water sources as well as UNHHS every five years. The latest local sanitary survey was completed in 2016 for the period of 2011-2015. The last watershed sanitary survey for UNHHS was conducted in 2015 as part of the SFPUC’s drought response plan efforts. These surveys evaluate the sanitary conditions, water quality, potential contamination sources and the results of watershed management activities. With support from partner agencies including National Park Service and US Forest Service, these surveys identified wildlife, stock, and human activities as potential contamination sources. You may contact the San Francisco District office of SWRCB-DDW at 510-620-3474 for review of these reports.
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's Annual Water Quality Report can be found here.
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Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons, such as those with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly people and infants, can be particularly at risk from infections.
These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. USEPA/CDC guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available from the USEPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline 800.426.4791 or at www.epa.gov/safewater
Water quality results are published annually in the MPWD Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs).
The SFPUC’s annual monitoring of the water sources in 2018 continues to demonstrate that there is no lead detected. There are no known lead service lines in our distribution system. If lead was detected in tap water, it is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. We are responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but we cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. It is possible that lead levels at your home in the community may be higher than at others because of plumbing materials used in your property.
Additional information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the USEPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline 800-426-4791 or at www.epa.gov/lead
In response to an increase in the magnitude and frequency of algal blooms in Calaveras Reservoir and San Antonio Reservoir, the SFPUC initiated a taste and odor (T&O) control program for the SVWTP in 2018. The program will address seasonal taste and odor resulting from algal blooms in the reservoirs. The first component of this program is to a Powdered Activated Carbon facility to mitigate the occurrence of taste and odor compounds. A secondary benefit of using carbon for treatment will reduce the color of the water and formation of disinfection byproducts. The long-term component of the program is an ozonation treatment facility that is currently in design phase.
Mandated by State law, water fluoridation is a widely accepted practice proven to be safe and effective for preventing and controlling tooth decay. Our fluoride target level in the water is 0.7 milligram per liter (mg/L, or part per million, ppm), consistent with the May 2015 State regulatory guidance on optimal fluoride level. Infants fed formula mixed with water containing fluoride at this level may still have a chance of developing tiny white lines or streaks in their teeth. These marks are referred to as mild to very mild fluorosis, and are often only visible under a microscope. Even in cases where the marks are visible, they do not pose any health risk. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) considers it safe to use optimally fluoridated water for preparing infant formula. To lessen this chance of dental fluorosis, you may choose to use low-fluoride bottled water to prepare infant formula. Nevertheless, children may still develop dental fluorosis due to fluoride intake from other sources such as food, toothpaste and dental products.
Contact your healthcare provider or SWRCB-DDW if you have concerns about dental fluorosis. For additional information about fluoridation or oral health, visit the SWRCB-DDW website www.waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/certlic/drinkingwater/Fluoridation.shtml or the CDC website www.cdc.gov/fluoridation
Opening a faucet or two in your home or business, or an outside spigot, to let the water run for a couple of minutes should resolve it. Remember to capture the water in a bucket to use for watering indoor plants or outdoor landscaping!
Depending upon the water turnover in the mainline serving your connection, or seasonal fluctuations in water treatment by San Francisco Water, a temporary water quality issue could be quickly resolved with a mini-flushing of your service line. If the problem persists, please contact us at 650-591-8941 or online here.