Water customers might invest upward of $5 million a year in Yosemite National Park’s environment to help save money on water-treatment costs and keep their supplies clean and safe.
Most of the drinking water that flows through faucets in San Francisco and on the Peninsula is melted snow that has traveled through a labyrinth of pipes from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir inside the park.
The snowmelt that fills the granite basin is so pure and clean that federal and state agencies do not require it to be filtered, which is an expensive mandated treatment for most other water.
The water is, however, treated with chemicals, and it will wash over powerful ultraviolet lights to kill bugs once a new treatment plant opens in San Joaquin County next spring.
Under conditions of filtration waivers, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission must invest in environmental and security programs around the reservoir.
The programs help keep the area — and the snowmelt that flows to the Bay Area — pristine and safe.
A $5 million-a-year agreement with the National Park Service was approved by SFPUC commissioners at a hearing last week. It now requires approval by city lawmakers.
The contract will increase annually and cost the agency’s water customers $30 million over five years, SFPUC Water Manager Steve Ritchie said.
The contract was set at $2.75 million a year in 2005, but it has been growing as new tasks have been added to the agreement, Ritchie said.
Construction of the dam in a national park was controversial when city lobbyists helped push needed legislation, called the Raker Act, through Congress in the wake of the 1906 earthquake and fire.
SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington said at the hearing that the agency is often criticized for its environmental impact at the site.
“Clearly, we’re partners with Yosemite National Park in a lot of the things that happen there, including environmental stewardship work,” he said.
Work to be done in Yosemite that’s funded by agreement:
- Patrols to prevent bathing in reservoir
- Patrols to keep horses and camps away from reservoir
- Wilderness education for park visitors
- Trail maintenance
- Management of horses used by rangers
- Public restroom maintenance
- Amphibian and reptile studies