Prop. F, Hetch Hetchy restoration a costly dream

San Francisco does not currently do enough to recycle water. Nor does it do enough to recharge its underground aquifers and use groundwater for its customers.

Proponents of tearing down the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir are using those arguments to try to persuade voters to approve a study that could lead to dismantling the Hetch Hetchy water system, which delivers water to 2.6 million residents and businesses in four Bay Area counties.

The proponents of Proposition F point to our poor recycling and groundwater use as a reason to study removing O’Shaughnessy Dam and draining Hetch Hetchy Reservoir so it can be restored to its natural state. They say restoration of the valley in Yosemite National Park is a chance to right the wrong made 100 years ago when San Francisco flooded it.

Prop. F would require the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to spend $8 million studying improving water conservation and replacing the water and power lost by removing the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The measure also would lay the groundwork for a possible 2016 vote on the issue of draining the reservoir, no matter how costly it would be to move this proposal forward.

Studies have put the cost of removing the reservoir at between $3 billion and $10 billion. While we could get behind the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley and replacement of The City’s water and power if the replacement costs appeared within reach, it is hard at this moment to imagine anyone ever managing to come up with the necessary funding to do this. Voters can decide whether to spend $8 million on this alluring dream.

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