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Annual Water Quality Report 2013

2013 Water Quality Report graphic

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Our Drinking Water Sources and Treatment


The sources of drinking water (both tap water and bottled water) include rivers, lakes, oceans, streams, ponds, reservoirs, springs, and wells.

For our system, the major water source originates from spring snowmelt flowing down the Tuolumne River to storage in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Our pristine, well protected Sierra water source is approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) so that no filtration is required. Water treatments including disinfections by ultraviolet light and chlorine, pH adjustment for corrosion control, fluoridation for dental health protection, and chloramination for maintaining disinfectant residual and minimizing
disinfection byproduct formation are in place to meet the drinking water regulatory requirements.

Hetch Hetchy water is supplemented with surface water from two local watersheds. Rainfall and runoff from the 35,000-acre Alameda Watershed in Alameda and Santa Clara counties are collected in the Calaveras and San Antonio reservoirs for filtration and disinfection at the Sunol Valley Water Treatment Plant. Rainfall and runoff from the 23,000-acre Peninsula Watershed in San Mateo County are stored in the Crystal Springs, San Andreas, and Pilarcitos reservoirs, and are filtered and disinfected at the Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant.

As in the past, the Hetch Hetchy Watershed provided the majority of our total water supply, with the remainder contributed by the two local watersheds in 2013.



See a map of the Regional System

Protecting Our Watersheds

Our annual Hetch Hetchy Watershed Sanitary Survey evaluates the sanitary conditions, water quality, potential contamination sources, and the results of watershed management activities with partner agencies including the National Park Service and US Forest Service.

We also conduct sanitary surveys every five years to detect and track sanitary concerns for the local watersheds and the approved standby water sources in the Early Intake Watershed, which includes Cherry Lake and Lake Eleanor. The latest 5-year surveys were completed in 2011 for the period of 2006-2010. These surveys identified wildlife, stock, and human activities as potential contamination sources. The reports are available for review at the CDPH San Francisco District office, (510) 620-3474.

Water Quality


Our 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 2013, WQD staff conducted more than 102,650 drinking water tests in the transmission and distribution systems. This is in addition to the extensive treatment process control monitoring performed by our certified operators and online instruments.

wapaman waterfallsAs water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases, radioactive material, and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or from human activity. Such substances are called contaminants.

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 CDPH prescribe regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. CDPH regulations also establish limits for contaminants in bottled water that provide the same protection for public health.

Special Health Needs

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/ Centers for Disease Control 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

Fluoridation and Dental Fluorosis

Mandated by State law, water fluoridation is a widely accepted practice proven to be safe and effective for preventing and controlling tooth decay. Our water is optimally fluoridated at 1.0 milligram per liter. Infants fed formula mixed with water containing fluoride at the optimal level may have an increased 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. 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 health provider or CDPH if you have concerns about dental fluorosis. For additional information, visit the CDPH website and search for fluoride, or the CDC website




Contaminants and Regulations

Contaminants that may be present in source water include:

  • Microbial contaminants, such as viruses and bacteria, that may come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations, and wildlife.
  • Inorganic contaminants, such as salts and metals, that can be naturally occurring or result from urban stormwater runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining, or farming.
  • Pesticides and herbicides that may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, urban stormwater runoff, and residential uses.
  • Organic chemical contaminants, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are by-products of industrial processes and petroleum production, and can also come from gas stations, urban stormwater runoff, agricultural application, and septic systems.
  • Radioactive contaminants, which can be naturally occurring or be the result of oil and gas production, and mining activities.

More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the USEPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800) 426-4791, or at

Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule

In May 2012, USEPA published the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) that lists a total of 28 chemical contaminants and two viruses for monitoring by some public water systems between 2013 and 2015. USEPA uses the UCMR to collect data for contaminants suspected to be present in drinking water to help determine if drinking water standards need to be developed in the future. The SFPUC is required to monitor the 28 chemical contaminants, and completed four quarters of UCMR3 monitoring in 2013. Only 5 of the 28 contaminants were detected at very low levels as reported in the following table. In the absence of identifiable industrial sources other than chlorate, these contaminants are naturally occurring in our watersheds. Chlorate is a degradation product of the disinfectant used by the SFPUC for water disinfection, and is a common contaminant found in water treatment facilities throughout the nation.

Reducing Lead from Plumbing Fixtures

Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. There are no known lead service lines in our water distribution system. We are responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. It is possible that lead levels at your home may be higher than at others because of plumbing materials used in your property.

glass filling at faucetIf present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Infants and young children are typically more vulnerable to lead in drinking water than the general population. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking. If you are concerned about lead levels in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. 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

In addition to our water source protection efforts, we continue the following programs to minimize customer exposure to lead in water:

  • Working toward completion of a comprehensive program to replace brass meters with lead-free automated water meters
  • Offering, in partnership with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, free lead test vouchers for clients enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program
  • Offering low-cost water tests for lead ($25 per tap). To request a test, call (877) 737-8297.

UCMR3 Sampling Results


Range Average
Typical Sources in Drinking Water
Chlorate ppb 800 (NL) NA 30 - 270 150 Degradation of disinfectant
Chromium-total ppb 50 (100) <0.2 - 0.35 <0.2 Erosion of natural deposits; industrial discharges
Chromium-6 ppb 10 0.02 <0.03 - 0.15 0.09 Erosion of natural deposits; industrial discharges
Strontium ppb NA NA 15 - 170 74 Erosion of natural and pipe deposits
Vanadium ppb 50 (NL) NA <0.2 - 0.48 <0.2 Erosion of natural and pipe deposits

Key Water Quality Terms

Following are definitions of key terms referring to standards and goals of water quality noted on the adjacent data table.

Public Health Goal (PHG): The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. PHGs are set by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG): The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs are set by the USEPA.

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL): The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. Primary MCLs are set as close to the PHGs or MCLGs as is economically and technologically feasible. Secondary MCLs (SMCLs) are set to protect the odor, taste, and appearance of drinking water.

Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level (MRDL): The highest level of a disinfectant allowed in drinking water. There is convincing evidence that addition of a disinfectant is necessary for control of microbial contaminants.

Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level Goal (MRDLG): The level of a drinking water disinfectant below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MRDLGs do not reflect the benefits of the use of disinfectants to control microbial contaminants.

Primary Drinking Water Standard (PDWS): MCLs and MRDLs for contaminants that affect health along with their monitoring and reporting requirements, and water treatment requirements.

Regulatory Action Level: The concentration of a contaminant which, if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements that a water system must follow.

Treatment Technique (TT): A required process intended to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water.

Turbidity: A water clarity indicator that measures cloudiness of the water, and is also used to indicate the effectiveness of the filtration system. High turbidity can hinder the effectiveness of disinfectants.

Cryptosporidium is a parasitic microbe found in most surface water. We regularly test for this waterborne pathogen, and found it at very low levels in source water and treated water in 2013. However, current test methods approved by the USEPA do not distinguish between dead organisms and those capable of causing disease. Ingestion of Cryptosporidium may produce symptoms of nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches. Cryptosporidium must be ingested to cause disease, and it may be spread through means other than drinking water.


Unfiltered Hetch Hetchy Water
0.2 - 0.3(1)
[3.6](2) Soil runoff
Filtered Water from Sunol Valley Water Treatment Plant (SVWTP)
NTU 1(3)




Soil runoff

min 95% of samples ≤0.3 NTU (3)
N/A 99.9 %
Soil runoff
Filtered Water from Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant (HTWTP)
NTU 1(3)
N/A --
[0.13] Soil runoff
min 95% of samples ≤0.3 NTU (3) N/A 100 %
-- Soil runoff
Total Trihalomethanes

N/A 33 - 77 [55](4) Byproduct of drinking water disinfection
Haloacetic Acids
N/A 30 - 51
[44](4) Byproduct of drinking water disinfection
Total Organic Carbon(5)
TT N/A 1 - 3.4
Various natural and man-made sources
Total Coliform

NoP ≤5.0% of monthly samples
(0) -- [0.3%] Naturally present in the environment
Giardia lamblia
(0) <0.01 - 0.04 
Naturally present in the environment
Fluoride(source water)(6)

1 ND - 0.8
Erosion of natural deposits; water additive to promote strong teeth
Chloramine(as chlorine)
ppm MRDL=4.0
0.4 - 2.9
Drinking water disinfectant added for treatment
Gross Alpha Particle Activity
15 (0) ND - 3.9
ND Erosion of natural deposits;
ppb 200
600 ND - 52
Erosion of natural deposits; some water treatment residue
ppm 500
N/A <3 - 18
Runoff/leaching from natural deposits
unit 15
N/A <5 - 6
Naturally occurring organic materials
Specific Conductance
µS/cm 1600
N/A 29 - 258
169 Substances that form ions when in water
ppm 500
N/A 0.8 - 33
16.6 Runoff/leaching from natural deposits
Total Dissolved Solids
ppm 1000
N/A <20 - 109
71 Runoff/leaching from natural deposits
NTU 5 N/A 0.1 - 0.3
Soil runoff
ppb 1300 300 6 - 144 60 Internal corrosion of household water plumbing systems
ppb 15 0.2 <1 - 20.8 11 Internal corrosion of household water plumbing systems
Alkalinity(as CaCO3)
ppm N/A 7 - 71 46 < / ≤ = less than / less than or equal to
AL = Action Level
Max = Maximum
Min = Minimum
N/A = Not Available
ND = Non-Detect
NL = Notification Level
NoP = Number of Coliform-Positive Sample
NTU = Nephelometric Turbidity Unit
ORL = Other Regulatory Level
pCi/L = picocurie per liter 
ppb = part per billion
ppm = part per million
µS/cm = microSiemens / centimeter
ppb N/A 17 - 24
Calcium(as Ca)
ppm N/A 3 - 23
ppb 800 (NL)
39 - 690
Hardness(as CaCO3)
ppm N/A 7 - 89
ppm N/A <0.2 - 8.3
- N/A 8 - 10.1
ppm N/A 4.8 - 5.2
ppm N/A 3 - 18

FOOTNOTES: (1) Turbidity is measured every four hours. These are monthly average turbidity values. (2) The highest turbidity of the unfiltered water in 2013 was 3.6 NTU. (3) There is no turbidity MCL for filtered water. The limits are based on the TT requirements for filtration systems. (4) This is the highest locational running annual average value. (5) Total organic carbon is a precursor for disinfection byproduct formation. The TT requirement applies to the filtered water from the SVWTP only. (6) We add fluoride to an optimum level of 0.9 ppm to help prevent dental caries in consumers. The CDPH specifies the fluoride levels in the treated water be maintained within a range of 0.8 ppm - 1.5 ppm. In 2013, the range and average of the fluoride levels were 0.7 ppm - 1.4 ppm and 0.9 ppm, respectively. (7) The natural fluoride levels in the Hetch Hetchy supply was ND. Elevated fluoride levels in the SVWTP and HTWTP raw water are attributed to the transfer of fluoridated Hetch Hetchy water into the reservoirs. (8) This is the highest quarterly running annual average value. (9) Aluminum also has a primary MCL of 1000 ppb. (10) The most recent Lead and Copper Rule monitoring was in August 2012. Five of the 60 site samples collected at consumer taps had lead concentrations above the AL. (11) Bromide was monitored at HTWTP treated water in 2013. (12) The detected chlorate in the treated water is a degradation product of sodium hypochlorite, which we use for water disinfection. Note: The different water sources blended at different ratios throughout the year have resulted in varying water quality. Additional water quality data may be obtained by calling our Water Quality Division toll-free number at (877) 737-8297.


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Last updated: 7/2/2014 10:35:41 AM