Report a Problem

The Water Board’s job is to protect and improve the quality of the natural water resources in our region, which includes San Francisco and Tomales bays, the ocean, streams that flow into the bays and the ocean (west of Antioch), local lakes and reservoirs, and groundwater throughout the region.

Drinking water and hazardous waste spills are two areas for which we are not directly responsible. See below for information on how to report those problems.

We are a state agency, one of several state, federal, and local agencies (see below) with responsibility for keeping waters clean. One of the ways we do our job is to rely on citizens to let us know when water quality problems, or potential problems, are occurring.

There are different ways to report problems to agencies. You can file a web-based report using the California Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental complaint form here: Water Boards Complaints filed on that site will be distributed to the appropriate CalEPA agencies, one of which is the Water Board. You can also contact agencies by phone.

  • Most cities in our region have trained their first responders to follow up on calls reporting storm drain pollution. Call 911 when you see a problem in your community.
  • To contact the Water Board, please call 510-622-2369. This line is staffed during business hours and checked regularly during non-business hours
  • The State Office of Emergency Services maintains a 24/7 spill report line at 800-852-7550. OES will inform appropriate agencies about any spill report they receive.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also maintains a 24/7 environmental emergency number, 800-300-2193.

What kinds of problems should you report?

We need to know if you find evidence of something obviously wrong with a water body (strange color, smells, dead fish, etc.). We are also interested in evidence of someone dumping into storm drains or other waters directly or indirectly, even if you cannot see obvious water quality problems. And, we are concerned about any handling, storing, or disposing of materials in such a way that they may get into surface or groundwaters.

Be sure to tell us where, and when you observed the problem.
Sewage backups and spills should be reported to your local sewer utility. Sewer utilities are required to respond to the problem, and report to CalEMA, local health agencies, and the Water Board. If you see an ongoing sewage spill that the local sewer utility has failed to correct, you can also report the problem to Water Board by phone at (510) 622-2369.

Reporting a problem anonymously is better than not reporting it at all! While we do not require you to identify yourself when you report a problem, knowing who you are can help us get follow-up information. We will try to maintain confidentiality if you request it, but it is not always possible for legal reasons to guarantee it.

When should you report a problem?
Sooner is better! As we all learned from the Cosco Busan spill in San Francisco Bay, a few hours can make a big difference to our ability to clean up a spill and avoid serious effects to the environment.

The state agency that regulates drinking water is the Department of Public Health. Its Bay Area regional office can be reached at (510) 620-3474. Marin and Sonoma County residents should call (707) 576-2145.

Problems with the treatment and storage of hazardous wastes should be referred to the Department of Toxic Substances Control. Problems with pesticide use should be reported to the Department of Pesticide Regulation.