Review of wastewater problems and wastewater-management planning in the San Francisco Bay region, California

Open-File Report 73-112

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development



The San Francisco Bay region has suffered adverse environmental effects related to the discharge of municipal-, industrial-, and agricultural- wastewater and storm-water runoff. Specific pollutional properties of theses discharges are not well understood in all cases although the toxic materials and aquatic-plant nutrients (biostimulants) found in municipal and industrial waterwater are considered to be a major cause of regional water-quality problems. Other water-quality problems in the region are commonly attributed to pesticides found in agricultural wastewater and potentially pathogenic bacteria in municipal-wastewater discharges and in storm-water runoff.

The geographical distribution and magnitude of wastewater discharges in the bay region, particularly those from municipalities and industries, is largely a function of population, economic growth, and urban development. As might be expected, the total volume of wastewater has increased in a trend paralleling this growth and development. More significant, perhaps, is the fact that the total volume parameters such as BOD (biochemical oxygen demand), biostimulant concentrations, and toxicity, has increased despite large expenditures on new and improved municipal- and industrial-wastewater-treatment plants. Also, pollutant loadings from other major source, such as agriculture and storm-water runoff, have increased.

At the time of writing (1972), many Federal, State, regional, and local agencies are engaged in a comprehensive wastewater-management-planning effort for the entire bay region. Initial objectives of this planning effort are: (1) the consolidation and coordination of loosely integrated wastewater-management facilities and (2) the elimination of wastewater discharges to ecologically sensitive areas, such as fresh-water streams and shallow extremities of San Francisco Bay. There has been some investigation of potential long-range wastewater-management alternatives based upon disposal in deep water in the bay, in the Pacific Ocean, or on land. Also, wastewater-reclamation and water-reuse concepts seem to be growing in favor with the public and should become and important part of future wastewater-management plans. Because most wastewater-reclamation and water-reuse systems would involve the use of land (that is agricultural irrigation, ground-water recharge, recreational reservoirs) local and regional lang-use planners can ass much to wastewater-management planning by identifying local and subregional waterwater-reclamation and water-reuse possibilities within their jurisdictions and integrating them with future land-use plans. The timely participation of planner is essential because Federal and State planning and funding deadlines for a regional wastewater-management system become effective in July 1973 and 1974, respectively.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Review of wastewater problems and wastewater-management planning in the San Francisco Bay region, California
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Menlo Park, CA
iv, 45 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
San Francisco Bay