Jul 19, 2018

San Francisco Bay Water Quality Shows Improvement

Decades of environmental cleanup efforts have resulted in the uptick in quality

Water quality in San Francisco Bay improving after decades of cleanup efforts

According to new research, water quality in the San Francisco Bay is showing improvement after decades of poor quality and significant cleanup efforts. One indicator of the improved water conditions comes in the form of porpoises returning in significant number to inhabit the bay.

“In many ways, mammals are a secondary indicator of the health of the bay,” said Cara Field, a veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center. “The mammals go to where there is more prey available and the prey are found where the water is better.”

The improvement of the bay’s health results from a blend of efforts, including state and federal clean water acts, as well as years of effort by nonprofit organizations such as Save the Bay. Another nonprofit, San Francisco Baykeeper, monitors industrial pollution, storm water runoff, wastewater and sewage spills, as well as enforcing regulations and permits that are part of either state or federally mandated law.

“First we notify polluters if we find a violation,” said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, executive director and baykeeper of San Francisco Baykeeper. “We have a team of scientists too that can help bring the facility into compliance, and then we follow closely and work with them for three years.”

Another effort to improve the bay was carried out by the East Bay Municipal Utility District. The utility attempted to remedy the water quality in the bay through public information campaigns concerning materials that clog sewer lines.

Beyond this, the city of Berkeley has taken strides in favor of the bay’s health by collecting runoff and filtering it through bioswales. These landscape features can aid in removing harmful pollutants from water before it drains into various waterways.

Despite the positive strides made thus far, Choksi-Chugh warns of letting the collective guard down, as the bay continues to be inundated with harmful contaminants such as mercury or PCBs, which pose significant threats to wildlife.

“Our vision is a San Francisco Bay that is wilder and teeming with wildlife like the olden days where people can recreate and not worry about toxic pollutants when they eat the fish,” Choksi-Chugh said.