Water officials are rushing to repair a massive pipe to ensure the eastern half of The City will continue to have clean water.
With one of the two pipes that carry drinking water into an out-of-service reservoir, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which handles water distribution, is rushing to make the repairs, lest anything damage the second pipe.
Joints between steel pipes laid in recent decades inside a tunnel 40 feet underground were found to be corroded late last month after leaking water flooded Tioga Avenue in the Visitacion Valley neighborhood.
The corroded, 36-inch pipe, called Crystal Springs 1, is one of two built to carry Hetch Hetchy Valley snowmelt north from the Crystal Springs Reservoir on the Peninsula into the University Mound Reservoir in San Francisco. The water is then stored and distributed to the eastern half of The City, including downtown.
All the water that had been carried by the pipe is now being fed through Crystal Springs 2, a 60-inch pipe that runs roughly parallel to the older pipe.
It’s not known when Crystal Springs 1 began leaking, but 2,200 feet of piping was shut down after the leaks were detected last month, preventing any water from flowing through.
If Crystal Springs 2 fails because of old age or due to an earthquake before Crystal Springs 1 is repaired, the University Mound Reservoir could run dry within two days, according to Public Utilities Commission water manager Stephen Ritchie. The reservoir is one of two major ones in The City.
If such a scenario unfolds, utility workers would have to frantically attempt to reroute the water network to continue providing water for eastern and downtown San Francisco, according to Ritchie.
“If [Crystal Springs] 2 went out for some reason, we would really be hard-pressed to deliver water,” he said. “Our plumbers would have to work miracles.”
The Public Utilities Commission is not equipped to repair the corroded pipe, agency documents show.
Commission President F.X. Crowley signed a declaration of emergency Oct. 23 after the problem was detected, which allowed the repair work to be contracted out to a trusted company without calling for bids.
Repair work by A. Ruiz Construction is expected to last until the end of December, agency documents show.
The full commission is expected to ratify the emergency declaration today.
The chances of your tap running dry
These eastern neighborhoods could be without water if a Crystal Springs pipeline breaks before the other one is repaired:
* Only parts of neighborhood would be affected
Source: San Francisco Public Utilities Commission