From the early settlements of the 1770s, the upper reaches of the creek were tapped for water supply and lower Strawberry Creek became a sewage conveyance system that was partially culverted and channelized, disrupting natural flow regimes and damaging aquatic and riparian habitat. By the 1900s, the creek had been altered dramatically from pre-disturbance conditions with degraded habitat, altered hydrologic regime, and chronic pollution problems. In 1952 East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) built a sewage treatment plant and the majority of the campus’ sanitary sewer drains were re-routed to this facility. However, not all the drains were re-routed to the EBMUD plant and by 1987, water quality and health of the ecosystem were highly degraded and the creek was considered a public health risk. In 1987 the UC Berkeley’s Office of Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) created the Strawberry Creek Management Plan (SCMP) which served as a consolidated effort to identify the specific sources of pollution and disturbance, ameliorate the problems, and restore the natural habitat of the riparian area.
The plan also led to the rapid rerouting of pipes draining non-stormwater discharges to the creek. Corrective actions were prioritized, with high-risk connections, including toilets and laboratory sink drains, addressed first and sources posing less significant risks—such as cooling tower drains—addressed secondarily. Today there are no known connections between the sanitary sewer system and Strawberry Creek.
Implementation of the 1987 SCMP from 1987 through 2004 led to greatly improved overall water quality conditions, enhanced ecological integrity as measured by biological criteria (macroinvertebrates and fish), increased environmental education for students and the campus public. Despite the occasional setbacks that an urban creek encounters, such as sewage overflows and water main breaks, Strawberry Creek is a thriving ecosystem due to the ongoing restorations efforts.