SFPUC plans for water emergency

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is preparing to drill more wells between Daly City and San Bruno to provide additional water during a drought or emergency.

The SFPUC plans to drill 10 new wells into what is known as the Westside Basin aquiferto get access to the water, a $39 million project budgeted as part of the SFPUC’s Water System Improvement Program. The commission will issue a call for bids at the end of this month for a consultant to plan where the wells should be located, SFPUC project manager Greg Bartow said.

“We want to develop 7 million gallons a day of new dry-year supply from this project,” Bartow said. “This is a regional benefit.”

Until 2002, Daly City, South San Francisco’s Cal Water and San Bruno all pumped water from the aquifer as part of their regular drinking supply, according to Bartow. The pumping raised concerns about water levels in the aquifer, however, which affect the water levels at Lake Merced.

In response to protests from groups such as the Friends of Lake Merced, a pilot program was launched in which those cities ceased most use of their wells and used San Francisco’s water instead, for a reduced cost. The period of nonpumping has allowed the aquifer to replenish 4 billion gallons through this spring, not counting recent rains, Bartow said.

Keeping those water levels high is integral to the success of the plan to develop the aquifer as a reserve water supply, which could please environmentalists, according to Bartow. The Friends of Lake Merced citizens group could not be reached for comment by press time.

The pilot program ended in 2005, though neither Daly City nor South City resumed pumping, Daly City Water and Wastewater Resources Manager Patrick Sweetland said. Daly City and San Francisco inked a deal by which Daly City will continue to use San Francisco’s water in place of the well water but will not pay for it until Daly City needs to use the reserved aquifer water during a drought year, Sweetland said.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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