The urban Santa Ana River in California is the primary source of recharge water for Orange County's groundwater basin, which provides water to more than two million residents. This study was undertaken to determine the unidentified portion of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in various natural surface and reclaimed waters of the Santa Ana River Basin and to assess the potential health risk of this material. The most abundant organic contaminants were anionic detergent degradation products (constituting about 12% of the DOM), which have no known adverse health effects. In addition, high percentages of dissolved colloids from bacterial cell walls were found during storm flows; these colloids foul membranes used in water treatment. Although no significant health risks were ascribed to the newly characterized DOM, the authors note that even the small amounts of humic substances deposited during storm flow periods were responsible for significant increases in disinfection by_product formation potential in these waters.