San Diego Water Issues | San Diego Tap Water Quality – Hydroviv

Problems We Found In San Diego's Drinking Water

Problems We Found In San Diego's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of San Diego’s drinking water issues, we collected water quality test data from the City of San Diego and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced the city's water quality data with toxicity studies in scientific and medical literature. The water filters that we sell at Hydroviv are optimized to filter out contaminants that are found in San Diego’s drinking water.

Where Does San Diego Source Its Drinking Water?

San Diego purchases water from the San Diego Water Authority. This water is sourced by the Colorado River Aqueduct and the State Water Project. The water is then treated at one of three treatment facilities throughout the city; Alvarado, Miramar, or Otay.

Extremely High Levels of Chromium 6 in San Diego

Chromium 6 is a highly toxic metal that is currently unregulated by the EPA. In recent years, San Diego has had a major problem with this dangerous contaminant. At the Alvarado water treatment facility, concentrations ranged from 0.08-0.11 parts per billion. At the Otay water treatment facility, concentrations ranged from 0.04-0.09 parts per billion. By far the highest level of contamination was at the Miramar plant, where concentrations ranged from 0.16-0.36 parts per billion. The city of San Diego distribution system detected levels of Chromium 6 as high as 0.11 parts per billion. These samples were collected between the years of 2013 and 2014, so it’s unknown if the Chromium 6 situation has improved or gotten worse. Chromium 6 pollution is associated with metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding, and pigment production. EPA has acknowledged that Chromium 6 is a known human carcinogen through inhalation, but is still determining its cancer potential through ingestion of drinking water. Lung, nasal and sinus cancers are associated with Chromium 6 exposure. Ingestion of extremely high doses of chromium 6 compounds can cause acute respiratory disease, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hematological, hepatic, renal, and neurological distress which may result in death.

Perfluorinated Compounds In San Diego's Drinking Water 

Two out of five reported California drinking water systems affected by PFOA and PFOS contamination were located within the San Diego region. Camp Pendleton and the city of San Juan Capistrano both had concentrations ranging from 0.021 to 0.062 parts per billion. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recently recommended setting a Minimum Risk Level of 20 parts per trillion for drinking water for both of these substances, which would put both locations in exceedance. These data are preliminary and the effects to human health are still unknown. This category of chemicals are “emerging contaminants” which means they are thought to pose a potential threat to human health and the environment, but have yet to be regulated. Perfluorinated Compounds contribute to environmental contamination largely due to the fact that they are highly resistant to degradation processes, and thus persist for many years in water, air and can enter the food chain via bioaccumulation in certain animal species.

Disinfection Byproducts In San Diego's Drinking Water 

San Diego has a serious problem with Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) which is a type Disinfection Byproduct or DBP. DBPs are split into two categories: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5). San Diego’s average concentration of Haloacetic Acids-5 was 17 parts per billion which is in compliance with the loose EPA Maximum Contaminant Level of 60 parts per billion. The average concentration for Trihalomethanes was 60 parts per billion, but concentrations were detected as high as 126 parts per billion which indefinitely exceeds EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level of 80 parts per billion. Disinfection Byproducts are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is unknown. DBPs are formed when chlorine-based disinfectants are routinely added to the water supply to kill bacteria. Regulatory agencies have very little knowledge about the adverse health effects of DBPs, and their toxicity. EPA has stated that they have been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems. Some disinfection byproducts have almost no toxicity, but others have been associated with cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental issues in laboratory animals. 200 million people in the United States use chlorinated tap water as their primary drinking source, so we take understanding their full health effects very seriously, even if federal agencies fail to regulate all categories.

It’s important to note that only a handful of contaminants are required to be included in annual Consumer Confidence Reports, and that there are hundreds of potentially harmful unregulated contaminants that aren’t accounted for. If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for San Diego’s tap water quality, feel free to visit to talk to a Water Nerd on our live chat feature or send us an email at

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
5 Things To Know About Chromium 6 In Drinking Water
Industrial Solvents In California's Drinking Water
PFOA and PFOS Contamination: What You Need To Know

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  • Analies Dyjak