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!

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).

Palo Alto:

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—

Bring large amounts of unwanted cooking oil (salad dressing, fryer oil) to the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Station—

For other service area cities, contact your local waste hauler for proper disposal options:


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:

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:


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.

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 trash cans

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
  • Hair
  • Dental floss & band aids
  • Kitty litter
  • Menstrual products
  • Cooking grease and oil
  • Cigarette butts
  • Paper towels
  • Condoms
  • Chemicals
  • Disposable diapers
  • All types of wipes including cosmetic, cleaning, “disposable” and “natural” types