Problems We Found In San Francisco's Drinking Water – Hydroviv

Problems We Found In San Francisco's Drinking Water

Problems We Found In San Francisco's Drinking Water

Kezia Snipe | Hydroviv Research Analyst

For Hydroviv’s assessment of tap water in San Francisco, we aggregated water quality test data from San Francisco Water, Power & Sewer, the city’s water provider and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as from samples that we collect and analyze.  We cross reference these data with toxicity studies in the scientific and medical literature, and delve into upcoming regulatory changes.  The water filters that we offer at Hydroviv are optimized with these figures in mind. 

Source Of San Francisco Drinking Water

San Francisco’s major water source originates from spring snowmelt flowing down the Tuolumne River to storage in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Hetch Hetchy water is supplemented with surface water from two local watersheds. Rainfall and runoff from the Alameda Watershed in Alameda and Santa Clara counties are collected in the Calaveras and San Antonio reservoirs, and delivered to the Sunol Valley Water Treatment Plant. Rainfall and runoff from the Peninsula Watershed in San Mateo County are stored in the Crystal Springs, San Andreas and Pilarcitos reservoirs, and are delivered to the Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant. In addition to these local sources, back-up water sources consist of surface water in Lake Eleanor, Lake Cherry and the associated creeks all conveyed via the Lower Cherry Aqueduct, Early Intake Reservoir and Tuolumne River.

Lead In San Francisco Drinking Water

Lead enters tap water through older lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. When corrosion control measures put in place by the municipality fail (like what recently happened in Flint, Michigan), lead leaches into the drinking water, and can reach dangerous levels. Currently, 10% of samples analyzed for lead in San Francisco are 4.8 parts per billion. Though in compliance with federal regulations, EPA and CDC both acknowledge that there is no safe level of lead, and federal regulations do not take into account levels measured at an individual tap.  

Chromium 6 In San Francisco Drinking Water

Chromium 6 is a highly toxic metal that is not regulated by the EPA.  In recent years, San Francisco’s tap water has averaged 91 parts per trillion for Chromium 6. For a bit of perspective, these levels are 4.55 times higher than the concentration determined to have negligible impact on cancer risk

Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs) In San Francisco Drinking Water

DBPs are a category of emerging contaminants that form when chlorine-based disinfectants react with naturally-occurring organic matter.  Although these chemicals are not currently regulated very well, the EPA website discloses that high levels of disinfection byproducts are associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems.

Chloramine Used To Disinfect San Francisco Drinking Water

While most municipalities use chlorine as the primary disinfectant, San Francisco’s water is disinfected with chloramine (produced by mixing chlorine and ammonia). Chloramine is primarily responsible for what many customers report as the “bad taste” of tap water, and unlike chlorine does not dissipate if a container of water is left in the refrigerator overnight. Most one-size-fits-all water filters use filtration media that doesn’t do a great job removing chloramine, but the filters that we design and build at Hydroviv for San Francisco uses special filtration media that is purposefully designed to remove chloramine as well.

Still Have Questions?

Hydroviv is a water filtration company that uses water quality data to optimize water filters for each customer's water.  The contaminants that we list above are what we consider to be major “points of emphasis” that we use to build water filters that are built specifically for San Francisco, but all of our filters provide broad protection against a wide range of contaminants.

If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for San Francisco tap water, or just have questions about water quality in general, feel free to visit, reach out by email ( or through our live chat. We also frequently post water-related news on Twitter or Facebook.  We pride ourselves in being a reputable source of information on water quality, and your questions will be answered by scientists, not salespeople (we don't have any salespeople).

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  • Kezia Snipe