San Francisco, California
What is the Water Quality in San Francisco, California?
Compared to other US cities, San Francisco water quality ranks in the lower-middle range for contamination excluding Lead.
Most of their 13 contaminants have cancer-causing attributes.
- Carbon tetrachloride is at high levels: 7.3x health guidelines.
- Haloacetic acids (HAA5) are at extremely high levels: 319x health guidelines.
- Haloacetic acids (HAA9) are at extremely high levels: 658x health guidelines.
- These are both byproducts of the chlorine treatment process most water supplies go through.
Let’s look closer at what’s in San Francisco water.
What’s in San Francisco water?
Here are the top 5 chemical compounds in your water and what health issues they can potentially cause:
- Carbon tetrachloride – Potential effect: Cancer
- Haloacetic acids (HAA5) – Potential effect: Cancer
- Haloacetic acids (HAA9) – Potential effect: Cancer
- Hexavalent Chromium – Potential effect: Cancer
- Total trihalomethanes – Potential effect: Cancer
These are five of the 13 contaminants analyzed by the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org).
These 5 contaminants are rated as exceeding EWG Health Guidelines.
Does San Francisco have Lead contamination?
Yes, San Francisco has lead in its water. The most recent Lead samples collected from 2016 through 2018 showed concentrations up to 6.0 parts per billion (ppb).
The legal limit for lead is 15 parts per billion. Being well-below this level is a good thing.
- Concentrations between 3.8 ppb and 15 ppb put a formula-fed baby at risk of elevated blood lead levels. Read more about the symptoms of Lead in water.
There is no safe level of lead for humans.
- The good news is that 99.99% of the lead can be removed.
See the What Can You Do? section below to learn how to filter out contaminants.
Where does San Francisco’s water come from?
San Francisco’s water comes from the Visitacion Valley – Frontal San Francisco Bay Estuaries watershed.
All 6 EPA assessed water sources in the Visitacion Valley – Frontal San Francisco Bay Estuaries watershed are in Impaired or Unknown condition. These include:
- Candlestick Point
- Central Basic
- Islais Creek
- Mission Creek
- South Beach Harbor
Ideally, a water source would be rated in Good condition.
Whether a water source is in Impaired or Good condition refers to the quality of these uses:
- Drinking Water
- Aquatic Life
- Fish and Shellfish Consumption
Learn more from How’s My Waterway
See below for what you can do to improve San Francisco’s water.
What Can You Do?
Information about water quality in San Francisco can be surprising.
But there are things you can do in your home to clean up your water.
To Remove Lead and Other Contaminants In Your Home:
There is one solution that beats Brita, PUR, and expensive whole house systems.
- It costs less per gallon.
- Needs fewer filter changes.
- And it doesn’t make your water taste weird.
- Use Berkey filters with activated carbon to filter out at least 65% of contaminants in your drinking water. (Berkey Light and Travel Berkey are the only types available in California.)
- This includes Carbon tetrachloride, Haloacetic acids, Hexavalent chromium, and Total trihalomethanes.
- Berkey filters can also remove up to 99.99% of Lead in San Francisco water.
- Brita can filter 4 contaminants (30.8%) and Lead depending on the filter.
- Note: We may receive a commission if you decide to purchase filters through links on this page.
- To filter out 9 of the 13 contaminants in your whole house (69.2%), consider a Reverse Osmosis water filtration system for your home.
- These are more expensive than pitchers to purchase, but can be more effective.
- They have the benefit of filtering out heavy hitters like:
- Haloacetic acids – chlorination byproduct*
- Hexavalent chromium – health effects
- Total trihalomethanes – byproduct of chlorination*
*Chlorination is an effective method of disinfecting/treating drinking water. You can then use a water filter to reduce the effects of chlorination byproducts to get the safest, cleanest water possible.
In Your Community:
Contact your local government officials and put pressure on them to invest in cleaner waterways and upgraded city water filtration and treatment.
Go to: https://sf.gov/ to find contact information for your local officials.