Water from Powell Street BART station to heat downtown San Francisco hotels

A new water recycling project unveiled Tuesday using water drained from the Powell Street BART station to generate energy is expected to save around 30 million gallons of water a year.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday announced the $3.5 million project at the Energy Center San Francisco District Energy Plant in the South of Market, which will redirect water from a foundation drainage system at the Powell Street BART Station into the ECSF’s District Energy Plant. The plant, which will boil the water to produce steam, will provide heating, hot water and steam to hotels and buildings in downtown San Francisco.

The project will result in a 30 million-gallon annual savings, an amount that can serve roughly 2,000 households in San Francisco.

“We want to embrace the spirit of innovation and look at new ways to maximize resources,” said SFPUC’s General Manager Harlan L. Kelly.

The project was completed in partnership with both ECSF and BART, with $3 million of its $3.5 million price tag financed by ECSF. SFPUC provided a $500,000 grant.

ECSF’s General Manager Gordon Judd said it took ten years to develop a project that could pump dirty water to the plant and turn it into clean water thanks to a technology called “reverse osmosis,” that can reuse from 80 to 90 percent of the overall drained water.

Judd said he expects to expand the system and save 80 million gallons within the next ten years.

“This is an incredible project and an example of what we should be doing everywhere,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, who called for a structural change of water resources usage in California.

“We need to continue to prepare for the effects of climate change by being more resourceful when it comes to our water supply,’ Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

For now, workers at the plant need a little time to adjust to the new system.

“It complicates my job and adds equipment to the plant that need to be maintained. But it’s worth it,” said Ted Vincent, plant manager at ECSF’s District Energy Plant.

 

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