You can help protect San Francisco Bay and local creeks every time you use a drop of water in or around your home.
Every drop of water used in and around homes in the RWQCP service area travels to San Francisco Bay after it’s been used. Sink, shower, and toilet water first travels to the RWQCP for wastewater treatment where biological wastes are removed. Stormwater travels to creeks and the Bay without treatment. Visit the Bay-friendly family below, click on the water drops and see how they help San Francisco Bay and creeks every day…from home!
Creek creatures die in chlorinated water! Drain pools and fountains to a sanitary sewer cleanout and never to storm drains which lead to creeks.
Motor vehicles contribute to air and water pollution. Washing your car at a commercial car wash and keeping your car in good shape can prevent some automobile pollution from entering creeks and the Bay.
Opt for less toxic or non-toxic household products. If you do have products that are labeled as toxic, corrosive, flammable, or reactive, make sure to properly get rid of it at your local Household Hazardous Waste Station.
Pesticides don’t belong on kids, pets or in our creeks. Here’s what local pest pros say to control ants and garden pests.
Toilets are not trashcans! Cotton swabs, dental floss, cat litter, wet wipes, sanitary products, and toys should not be flushed— even if the packaging says it’s okay. They can cause sewer backups into your house, onto streets or into creeks. Read about the new law that requires correct labeling for wet wipes.
Cleaning out your medicine cabinet? Bring unwanted medications to a drop off location in town. Never flush them down sinks or toilets or put them in the trash.
Avoid using soaps, shampoos, or cosmetics with microbeads—tiny bits of plastic. Look for ingredients labeled polyethylene or polypropylene. These make their way into the Bay from wind or wastewater. Learn more about microplastic pollution in the Bay.
Keep antibacterial soap and other antibacterial products out of our house because they’re not healthy for people or the Bay.
Keep your kitchen sink and other pipes flowing freely by making sure grease and cooking oil are kept out of sink drains, garbage disposals and toilets. Contact your local waste hauler for proper disposal options.
Did you know that one gram of dog waste contains 23 million fecal bacteria?Always pick up after your pets to prevent it from ending up in our waterways.
Click below to explore the ways you can prevent Pollution In Our Creeks and Bay
Draining & Cleaning Pools
- Clean regularly and maintain proper chlorine levels.
- Never clean pool filters in the street, gutter or storm drain.
- Rinse cartridge filter onto a dirt area and spade filter residue into the soil. Backwash sand and diatomaceous earth filters onto a dirt area. Keep backwash discharges out of the street and storm drain. Dispose of spent filter materials in the trash.
- Test water frequently and adjust the pH, total alkalinity, hardness and dissolved solid levels as recommended by your pool manufacturer. This is extra important during warm weather or heavy pool use.
- Ask your pool maintenance service to use an alternative to copper algaecides such as:
- Polymeric algaecide
- Sodium bromide
- Chlorine or chlorine-enhancers
- Hypochlorite containing shock treatments
- If draining your pool is necessary, discharge the water to a sanitary sewer cleanout (never street, or stormdrain).The sewer line clean-out is usually located in the front landscaped area or near the sidewalk, and marked with an “S”. The clean-out will have a small circular cap. How to find your clean-out.
- For septic systems, contact Palo Alto Water Quality Control Plant 650-329-2598.
Keep Fats, Oils, And Grease From Kitchen Drains
Pouring fats, oils, and grease (FOG) into the sanitary sewer system is an environmental and public health issue. FOG builds up in sewer lines and clogs pipes causing backups and raw sewage overflows onto streets, storm drains, and creeks.
To prevent sewer backups: Never pour grease or cooking oil down sink drains, garbage disposals or into toilets. Put baskets/strainers in sink drains to catch food scraps and other solids, and empty the drain baskets/strainers into the compost cart (if available in your area).
For small amounts of oil and grease, consolidate them into a compostable container such as a milk carton and place in your green compost cart—cityofpaloalto.org/foodscraps
Bring large amounts of unwanted cooking oil (salad dressing, fryer oil) to the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Station—cityofpaloalto.org/hazwaste
For other service area cities, contact your local waste hauler for proper disposal options:
- Los Altos Hills: GreenWaste
- Los Altos: Mission Trail Waste Systems
- Stanford: Peninsula Sanitary Service, Inc.
- Mountain View: Recology
- East Palo Alto: Recology
Keep PLASTICS out of OUR CREEKS AND SAN FRANCISCO BAY
Plastic comprises 60% of the litter found in Santa Clara County creeks. Plastic bags, plastic foam products (such as Styrofoam™), beverage containers, and other plastic debris are carried by wind and storm drains into creeks, the Bay, and the Pacific Ocean.
Here’s how you can help reduce plastics in our waterways:
- Use reusable shopping bags for all grocery store and retail shopping
- Use reusable water bottles and travel mugs
- Local creek cleanups make a difference! Visit cleanacreek.org to find a cleanup site near you during National River Cleanup Day (May) and Coastal Cleanup Day (September).
- Request that your local newspaper carrier use a plastic bag only when it rains
- Learn more at plasticfreeguide.com
Palo Alto prohibits the use of single-use plastic checkout bags and plastic foam products or packaging at all Palo Alto retailers and restaurants. For more information visit City of Palo Alto Zero Waste.
For more information about plastic-reduction ordinances in the RWQCP service area see below:
- City of East Palo Alto: Contact the San Mateo County Environmental Health Services, (650) 372-8200, smchealth.org/bagban
- City of Los Altos: General information (650) 947-2700, firstname.lastname@example.org
- City of Mountain View Zero Waste, (650) 903- 6311, Recycle@MountainView.gov
- City of Palo Alto Zero Waste, (650) 496-5910, email@example.com
LESS-TOXIC PEST CONTROL
Residential pesticide use by homeowners and pest control services is the main source of pesticide pollution in San Francisco Bay. Spray pesticides used for ant control are one of the largest contributors. These and other pesticides wash into storm drains and creeks during rain or when you water your garden.
Visit Watershed Watch for more information about:
Local hardware stores and nurseries that carry less-toxic products, and list of effective, less-toxic products for pests that are safer for your family.
Information and factsheets from professionals on how to control pests.
Safe pest control services that are EcoWise, Green Shield, or Green Pro Certified. Companies with these certifications use less-toxic products and techniques that really work, and are safer for people and the planet.
Check out South Bay Green Gardens for sustainable gardening resources such as compost and mulch fact sheets, workshops and events, irrigation and pest management tips, beautiful pre-made landscape designs, and much more.
recreational vehicle (RV) Sewage disposal
Dumping sewage and/or wastewater from recreational vehicles onto streets or storm drains is illegal and harmful to public health and to the environment.
Need to dispose of your waste? Find a disposal site near you.
toilets are not trashcans
The label on the baby wipes and kitty litter package claims that it’s “Flushable,” but is it really? Since cotton balls break apart, are they ok to flush down a toilet? None of these items should be flushed down a toilet.
“Flushable” wipes are usually made from plastic resins, don’t disintegrate like toilet paper, and contribute to costly sewage back-ups. These can be harmful to the environment if the overflow reaches the street’s storm drain. Cotton balls become soggy and get trapped in the pipes, causing serious backups as well. Only three things should be flushed: water, human waste and toilet paper!
Other items that should never be flushed:
- Hazardous wastes such as medications, paints, chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers
- Dental floss & band aids
- Kitty litter
- Menstrual products
- Cooking grease and oil
- Cigarette butts
- Paper towels
- Disposable diapers
- All types of wipes including cosmetic, cleaning, “disposable” and “natural” types