The short-term effect of sewage effluent on nitrogen and carbon productivity of natural marine phytoplankton obtained near two California outfalls has been studied. Uptake of ammonium was shown to be inhibited at much lower effluent concentrations than was carbon uptake. Since the populations studied were shown to exhibit Michaelis-Menten kinetics for ammonium uptake, a precise measurement of inhibition could be obtained. The results have immediate application since the phytoplankton populations of the area studied have been shown previously to be nitrogen limited.