Don’t be fooled by effort to empty Hetch Hetchy 

click to enlarge Hetch Hetchy Reservoir - JCUE786/FLICKR (CC)
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  • Hetch Hetchy Reservoir


You may soon be asked to sign an innocuous-sounding petition urging The City to develop “a sustainable water supply.” A laudable goal and one that San Francisco voters and city leaders have already committed to and are spending billions of dollars to achieve.

But don’t be fooled. Camouflaged in the petition’s language is the real goal of this measure: to drain the Bay Area’s largest and most important source of drinking water and clean energy — the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

A group of right-wing Republicans, led by ultra-conservative Congressman Dan Lungren, has joined a small number of well-intentioned but misguided local residents to drain Hetch Hetchy, making reckless claims that the pristine drinking water and clean hydropower can be easily and cheaply replaced.

In fact, draining Hetch Hetchy would be an environmental and economic disaster for the Bay Area, sticking San Francisco taxpayers with a multibillion-dollar price tag.

Proponents want you to ignore the fact that 2.6 million residents and businesses of San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda and San Francisco counties rely on Hetch Hetchy’s water — not just city residents.

Hetch Hetchy is also a carbon-negative, gravity-fed system that delivers not just water, but also generates clean electricity to power hospitals, schools, libraries, police and fire stations, and electric buses.

Proponents know that San Franciscans already understand the importance of a reliable water system. Less than a decade ago, voters overwhelmingly approved a bond to invest $4.6 billion in seismic upgrades to the Hetch Hetchy Water System, which is why they’re masking the true nature of their measure.

Rather than talk about the estimated $10 billion in costs (with no identified source to pay) or the dubious environmental claims, proponents are trying to guilt San Franciscans into a misguided policy decision. The 117 billion gallons stored at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is more water than all our other drinking water reservoirs combined — thus, “reducing from nine to eight,” in Hetch Hetchy’s case, would be disastrous.

San Francisco is already ensuring a reliable, sustainable water supply for the future, aggressively pursuing water recycling and conservation and developing new water resources such as groundwater. Still, even though we are already among the most efficient water users in the state, the Bay Area will always need Hetch Hetchy.

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Ed Lee

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