A measure on the ballot in San Francisco last year has spurred 24 agencies that buy water from San Francisco — to pass a resolution designed to keep Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park as their primary water supply for the foreseeable future.
If it had passed, Measure F on the November 2012 ballot in San Francisco would have required the City and County of San Francisco to begin a two-step process to evaluate how to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and how to replace the water it supplies to 2.4 million users in four Bay Area counties — San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda and San Mateo.
Eighty-five percent of the water to these four counties comes from Sierra Nevada snowmelt stored in the Hetch Hetchy reservoir situated on the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park. The remaining 15 percent of water comes from runoff in the Alameda and Peninsula watersheds, which is captured in reservoirs located in San Mateo and Alameda counties.
The 26 agencies, known collectively as the wholesale customers, that get water from Hetch Hetchy are located in Santa Clara, Alameda and San Mateo counties. The City and County of San Francisco owns the water rights and operates the system of pipes, dams and tunnels of Hetch Hetchy. Only one-third of the users of the water live in San Francisco. The other 1.7 million live on the Peninsula, in parts of San Jose and Alameda County.
The 26 wholesale customers buy two-thirds of the water that comes from Hetch Hetchy and are responsible for two-thirds of the cost of maintaining the system so environmental groups can no longer hope to drain the reservoir simply by winning approval from the voters of San Francisco.
"It's a fairness question," said Michael Carlin, deputy general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in a Mercury News article. "They are paying two-thirds of the bills. They are two-thirds of our customers. We need to make sure that whatever we do is fair and equitable to all of our customers."
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission already passed a resolution in January to maintain Hetch Hetchy and is encouraging the other wholesale customers to pass the resolution. The resolution requires a formal amendment to a 25-year agreement signed by all parties in 2009. The amendment will forbid San Francisco from draining Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
The Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) represents the interests of the 24 cities and water districts, and two private utilities that purchase water wholesale from the San Francisco regional water system.
“The amendment provides assurance to the customers of the District that the SF PUC will continue to honor their water supply guarantees that are vital to our public's health and economy. The Hetch Hetchy reservoir is integral to the District’s and San Francisco Bay Area’s water supply assurance, especially in times of water shortage during droughts, and should not be altered unless a similar water source is available,” said Joshua Cosgrove, board president of the North Coast County Water District.
“The effect of the amendment, assuming its approval by the wholesale customers,” said David Dickson, general manager of the Coastside County Water District, “will be to give customers of the Regional Water System outside of San Francisco, a voice in future decisions regarding Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.”
Additional reporting by JB Davis.
Are you in favor of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's plans to block the draining of the famed reservoir?
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