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Oakland, California Water Quality Report


Sources of Oakland, California Drinking Water

The water that the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) provides to people in Alameda and Contra Costa County comes from the watershed of the Mokelumne River in the Sierra Foothills. EBMUD secured water rights to the river in the early 1920s and built Pardee Dam across a valley, creating Pardee Reservoir. The reservoir supplies water to more than 1.2 million people in 22 East Bay cities from San Lorenzo to Crockett, including Oakland and Berkeley. Three 6-foot-wide steel aqueducts carry the water across the Central Valley to Walnut Creek, more than 80 miles away. Gravity alone will move up to 202 million gallons a day. With all three aqueducts open and the station’s pumping plants running, EBMUD can move 325 million gallons. The energy required for all water treatment and pumping, including over the East Bay hills, is the equivalent of the energy required to power about 95 million homes. From Walnut Creek, the water goes either to a treatment plant in Orinda or to three East Bay reservoirs, where it takes on local runoff before reaching two treatment plants. Together, the reservoirs can hold enough water to supply locals for four to six months. From the treatment plants, which add chloramine and fluoride, the water flows through more than 3,944 miles of distribution pipes and 164 neighborhood reservoirs — and on to businesses and households. 

Lead and Copper — Although water coming from the EBMUD water main is relatively free of these heavy metals, they can enter the water supply from pipes that connect the water main to the home, and from plumbing and faucets inside the home. Hot water systems in particular can contain elevated levels of lead and copper, and drinking water from hot water taps is inadvisable. The best way to know how much lead is in your water is to have it tested. If the lead level is more than fifteen parts per billion, it is best to filter your water. Note that lead in East Bay tap water is not common. Is Oakland's water safe to drink?

Source: City of Oakland

A list of contaminants in Oakland, California Water Supply 

(Detected above health guidelines)

Chromium (hexavalent): Chromium (hexavalent) is a carcinogen that commonly contaminates American tap water. Chromium (hexavalent) in drinking water may be due to industrial pollution or natural occurrences in mineral deposits in piping and groundwater. 

Health risks of Chromium (hexavalent) in excess of health guideline

The health guideline of 0.02 ppb for chromium (hexavalent) was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a public health goal, the level of a drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer. 

Chromium (hexavalent): Health Guideline: 0.02 ppb

  •  Oakland, California: 0.0402 ppb
  •  State: 1.69 ppb
  •  National: 0.782 ppb 

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) cancer: Trihalomethanes are cancer-causing contaminants that form during water treatment with chlorine and other disinfectants. The total trihalomethanes group includes four chemicals: chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform.

Health risks of trihalomethanes in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.8 ppb for trihalomethanes was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a draft public health goal, the level of drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer.

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs):

Health Guidelines: 0.8 ppb

  • State: 20.1 ppb
  • National: 23.4 ppb
  • Oakland, California : 52.0 ppb


Fluoride occurs naturally in surface and groundwater and is also added to drinking water by many water systems. The fluoride that is added to water is not the naturally occurring kind, the main chemicals used to fluoridate drinking water are known as “silicofluorides” (i.e., hydrofluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate). Silicofluorides are not pharmaceutical-grade fluoride products; they are unprocessed industrial by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry (Gross!). Since these silicofluorides undergo no purification procedures, they can contain elevated levels of arsenic — more so than any other water treatment chemical. In addition, recent research suggests that the addition of silicofluorides to water is a risk factor for elevated lead exposure, particularly among residents who live in homes with old pipes.


- Legal Limit: 4 ppb

 - State: 0.350 ppb

 - National: 0.440 ppb

 - Oakland, California: 0.785 ppb

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April Jones
Hiker, blogger, clean living enthusiast, water quality expert

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