San Francisco Bay and the rivers and streams that flow into it are the lifeblood of our enviable quality of life. These waters help determine our climate and provide us with beauty, wildlife, and recreation. But residential water consumption has risen in major service areas, while more water is being diverted from the Bay-Delta, threatening wildlife and the health of the ecosystem as a whole. Local beaches are not always adequately monitored, so people who use them may be unwittingly exposed to sewage or other contamination, and the bay is prone to episodes during which chemicals can harm, and even kill, fish and shrimp. NRDC researchers identified six measures of the health of Bay Area water and waterways. Overall, both the quality and the quantity of the region's water are under threat. For instance:
- Bay Area drinking water is generally safe, but San Francisco sometimes has high levels of TTHMs, contaminants that are suspected of causing cancer and have been linked to miscarriages. In addition, water utilities don't always communicate with the public as clearly as they should about safety risks.
- Bay water quality varies. At times the water is sufficiently toxic to kill laboratory fish and shrimp.
- Sediment in the bay is contaminated and will likely remain that way for years to come.
- Residential water consumption per person is up in areas served by five major Bay Area water agencies.
- Water is diverted from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in ever-increasing quantities, primarily for agricultural use. Record amounts were pumped in 2000.