Trust Your Tap Water: Environmental/Field Services are the Eyes and Ears of Water Quality

The drinking water served by the SFPUC is some of the best in the country. During these stressful times, customers do not need to worry about their tap water. There is no need to buy bottled water or boil tap water before use. The SFPUC employs a multi-step treatment process that removes and kills viruses, including coronaviruses such as COVID-19, as well as bacteria and other pathogens. The SFPUC’s treatment plants use several disinfectants, including ultraviolet light, chlorine, and ozone, to provide 10 to 60 times the required level of treatment for viruses.

A previous story already highlighted the work of the SFPUC’s Water Quality Engineers who monitor the water quality results. This story highlights how the SFPUC’s Environmental/Field Services staff work with Water Quality Engineers and Distribution System Operators to ensure that the drinking water continues to meet or exceed state and federal regulations for water quality.

SFPUC water quality field services sampling ground water.

“We are the eyes and ears of water quality,” says Senior Water Quality Inspector Roselle Ferrer.

Every day, rain or shine, Ferrer’s staff visit monitoring locations throughout the SFPUC’s Bay Area water transmission and distribution system. Staff check that field measurements are consistent with remote monitoring data and collect water samples following strict sampling and chain-of-custody protocols. Samples are transported to SFPUC’s state-certified laboratories for analysis, with results made available to SFPUC’s Water Quality Engineers and Distribution System Operators.

Last year, Ferrer’s staff conducted over 78,000 field tests and collected nearly 22,000 samples for analysis.

SFPUC water quality field services sampling ground water.

“We cover a wide area,” says Kenneth Payne, Chief Water Service Inspector who manages the entire Field Services team. “We probably do more driving than any other Division in the SFPUC.”

The Environmental/Field Services group has changed the way it operates because of the coronavirus and California’s shelter-in-place order. The SFPUC is deemed an “essential service” under the order, and its employees continue to ensure a safe supply of drinking water.

Staff conduct meetings virtually whenever possible, and they travel to and from monitoring sites and other locations in separate vehicles to maintain minimum social distancing guidelines.

Because the SFPUC’s water system is still working, so are they.

Bryan Hernandez sampling water at the SFPUC water quality lab.