Two basins (Castro Valley Creek, in Alameda County, and Strong Ranch Slough, in Sacramento County) in the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region (Bay-Delta region) were sampled intensively (3-15 minute intervals) during three storms between October 1974 and April 1975. Both basins are primarily residential, but the Strong Ranch Slough basin is almost entirely urbanized and nearly flat, while the Castro Valley Creek basin possesses some rural areas and slopes greater than 70 percent in the headwaters. Water discharge and concentrations of suspended solids, chemical oxygen demand, 5-day biochemical oxygen demand, nitrite and nitrate, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, total orthophosphorus, and settleable matter were usually greater at the Castro Valley Creek basin than at the Strong Ranch Slough basin.
Concentrations of these constituents and water discharge changed more rapidly at the Castro Valley Creek basin than at the Strong Ranch Slough basin. Of the four subbasins sampled (two in each basin), constituent concentrations in runoff from a residential subbasin were usually greatest.
Quantity and quality of runoff were related to environmental characteristics such as slope, perviousness, residential development and maintenance, and channel conditions. Greater water discharge and concentrations of constituents in the Castro Valley Creek basin seem to be partly due to steeper slopes, less perviousness, and smaller residential lot sizes than are in the Strong Ranch Slough basin. Erosion of steep slopes disturbed by grazing and residential development, poorly maintained dwellings and lots, and a mostly earthen drainage channel in the Castro Valley Creek basin are probably responsible for the greater concentrations of suspended solids and settleable matter in runoff from this basin.
In both basins, the highest observed concentrations of suspended solids, chemical oxygen demand, 5-day biochemical oxygen demand, settleable matter, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, and total orthophosphorus were observed at or near peak water discharges. Flow-weighted and arithmetic-mean concentrations of suspended solids in Castro Valley Creek exceed the arithmetic-mean concentration of suspended solids in medium-strength untreated sewage. These results indicate that control of urban storm runoff in the Bay-Delta region may be desirable to protect receiving water.