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Preventing Water Pollution
Wastewater Paths Poster
 Wastewater Paths: Where does all the water go? View the full-size poster.

Water from tubs, toilets, and taps inside homes travels through pipes to the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility where it is treated and then discharged into South San Francisco Bay. 

Make your home healthier and prevent indoor water pollution by following these tips:

Water that enters San José's storm drain system flows untreated into the nearest creek or river and ultimately to the Bay. Stormwater runoff – rain or irrigation water flowing over sidewalks, driveways, and landscaping – can carry pollutants into storm drains.

Keep outdoor pollutants from entering storm drains by following these tips:

En Español
Aprenda cómo la contaminación del agua afecta nuestras comunidades y el medio ambiente, y qué puede hacer para mantener limpio a San José

Disposable wipes
  • Tip: Throw disposable wipes in the trash. Don’t flush them.
  • The issue: Single-use disposable wet wipes, baby wipes, or moist toilettes – even ones marketed as “flushable” – clog City sewers and pumps, causing environmental harm and property damage. Wipes clog pipes and should always be thrown in the trash, never flushed. Unlike toilet paper, single-use wet wipes generally do not break down after you flush them and can easily get stuck in sewer pipes and pumps, causing environmental harm and property damage. Clogs from wipes have to be removed by City workers, resulting in an operational burden. Wipes that are transported through the sanitary sewer system to the wastewater facility cause an additional operational burden, as they need to be manually removed from wastewater treatment systems to prevent them from interfering with the treatment process. The wipes that are removed are then sent to a landfill.

Household hazardous waste

  • Tip: Instead of flushing unwanted medicines or putting them in the garbage, take them to a drop-off bin.
  • The issue: Flushed medicine flows through the sanitary sewer system to the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility, which was not designed to remove all pharmaceutical compounds. Small amounts may pass through and be released into the Bay, impacting wildlife.

Fats, oils, and grease
  • Tip: After cooking, let fats, oil, and grease cool down and solidify, then transfer to a container, such as a soup can. Cover the can and throw it directly into the trash (up to one quart). To get rid of more than one quart of fats, oil, and grease, make a free drop-off appointment through the Santa Clara County Household Hazardous Waste Program.
  • The issue: Oil and grease that is washed down the drain can build up in sanitary sewer lines and cause blockages, leading to sewage overflows that can endanger public health, the environment, and your property. In addition, clearing grease blockages in your home can be very costly.
  • If you have a sanitary sewer overflow, please call the Department of Transportation at (408) 794-1900 at any time.

Household cleaners

Antibacterial soaps
  • Tip: Instead of using antibacterial soap, use plain soap and warm water, with vigorous scrubbing for 15-20 seconds, to fight germs on hands.
  • The issue: Triclosan is a common chemical in antibacterial soaps and other products. A registered pesticide and endocrine disrupter, it can be toxic to fish in the Bay.

Pet waste
  • Tips:
    • Carry disposable bags when you walk your pet. Pick up and throw pet waste in a garbage can.
    • Pick up pet waste daily from your yard and throw it in the garbage or toilet.
    • Keep pet waste out of compost piles and garden soil.
  • The issue: Pet waste left on sidewalks, streets, yards or other open areas can be washed away by rain or irrigation water into storm drains. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause disease as well as nutrients that encourage algae growth in waterways.


Garden and yard chemicals
  • Tips:
  • The issue: Pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals can wash off during rain or irrigation into storm drains that flow directly into creeks, rivers, and the Bay, affecting the health of humans and wildlife.

Car maintenance

  • Tips:
    • Always throw trash in the proper can.
    • If you see litter in the street in front of your home or business, pick it up and throw it away before it is swept into the storm drain system and into the closest creek.
    • Volunteer to pick up litter in your community.
  • The issue: Litter can collect in urban creeks, like Coyote Creek, impacting water quality, hampering recreational use, and potentially hindering flood control protection.