Severely Polluted Waters

CA Polluted Water MapsProtecting the Beneficial Uses of Our Waterways

Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires California to identify all seriously polluted, or "impaired," water bodies every two years. These are waters too polluted for activities that Californians used to enjoy, like fishing and swimming, or that are too polluted to supply drinking water without costly extra treatment.  In California, the State Water Resources Control Board and its nine Regional Water Boards identify polluted waters for the list; they then develop, approve and implement a cleanup process with the U.S. EPA for each waterbody placed on the list.  On August 4, 2010,  the State Water Board adopted the final statewide 2008/2010 list of severely polluted waters.  This list shows that 83% percent of the total miles of California’s rivers and streams that have been assessed are impaired, as are 96% of the total assessed acres of California’s lakes and reservoirs.

The State Water Board is currently analyzing data submitted for the 2012 303(d) List.

CCKA Is Taking Action


Thirty-nine years after Congress promised fishable, drinkable waterways with the creation of the Clean Water Act, many of California's waterways remain contaminated, and the problem is getting worse.  If you’re wondering how contamination affects your watershed, you can learn about the severely polluted waterways of your region through CCKA’s interactive maps.

In 2009 and 2010, California Coastkeeper Alliance and its 12 member Waterkeepers worked together to offer public workshops that inform citizens, communities, water quality monitoring organizations, fishing organizations and public interest groups on how to get involved in the state’s process of developing these lists. At these workshops, CCKA and member Waterkeepers met with diverse groups of citizens from around the state to talk about this important process. 

The polluted waters list is among the most powerful tools that Californians have to clean up polluted rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.  By working closely with individual Waterkeepers and involving local stakeholders through public workshops, CCKA is building a strong voice for clean water up and down the California coastline, and ensuring that State and Regional Water Boards hear the voices of those communities most affected by water pollution.

One of the results of these workshops was a comprehensive submission by CCKA, signed by dozens of other environmental and fishing organizations, calling on the State Water Board to identify and clean up water bodies impaired by pollutants, low flows, and climate change.  In 2011, CCKA provided the State Water Board with low flows data to be used in the designation of 303(d) listings.  CCKA is following up with State and Regional Water Board staff to ensure that all impaired water bodies are identified and restoration programs begin.