March 31, 2011
  • 3/31/2011--Water supply fix under way 

    By Bill Silverfarb 

    San Mateo Daily Journal 


    The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission launched a $320 million public works 

    project yesterday to improve the water delivery system from Hetch Hetch to the Bay 

    Area. The outlet tower water officials stood on yesterday will eventually be demolished 

    and submerged under the water line. 


    A massive $320 million public works project is launching in San Mateo County to 

    improve the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System and water deliveries for more than 2.4 

    million people living in the Bay Area. 


    The four projects beginning construction on the Peninsula are part of the San Francisco 

    Public Utilities Commission’s $4.6 billion Water System Improvement Program and 

    include upgrades to the Crystal Springs reservoir system, water treatment plant and 

    regional pipelines. 


    Work on the projects should take four years to complete. 


    Later this year, SFPUC should reach the peak of construction activities on a multitude of 

    projects to seismically retrofit the entire water-delivery system. 


    The SFPUC provides water for San Francisco residents and 27 other wholesale 

    customers, including the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency. 


    Most cities on the Peninsula partner together to purchase water through BAWSCA. In 

    San Francisco, residents approved a bond measure in November 2002 to fund more than 

    80 projects to improve the system but San Mateo County residents will pay for the 

    projects through rate increases. 


    Next year, the SFPUC will charge its wholesalers at least 41 percent more for water and 

    by 2021, water rates will double for all of its customers. 


    “Without these projects, in case of a major earthquake the Bay Area could be without 

    water for 30 to 60 days. The community won’t survive,” said BAWSCA Chief Executive 

    Officer Art Jensen. 


    System improvements would get water running back to the Bay Area within 36 hours, 

    Jensen said. 


    “It is well worth the money for health, safety and economic well-being,” Jensen said. 



    So far, the SFPUC has delivered most of its projects on time and on budget, Jensen said.  

    Built in the early- to mid-1900s, many parts of the system are outdated, with critical 

    portions crossing over or near three major earthquake faults, according to the SFPUC. In 

    2002, the SFPUC launched the improvement project to repair, replace and seismically 

    upgrade the system’s deteriorating pipelines, tunnels, reservoirs, pump stations, storage 

    tanks and dams that carry water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National 

    Park to the Bay Area. 


    “The devastating earthquake in Japan is a sobering reminder of the need to have a 

    seismically secure and reliable drinking water system,” said SFPUC General Manager Ed 



    The San Andreas fault runs right through the middle of the Crystal Springs reservoir, 

    Harrington said. 


    The SFPUC held a groundbreaking yesterday at the end of Skyline Boulevard and Crystal 

    Springs Road where two outlet towers that draw water out of the reservoir are slated to be 

    demolished and ultimately submerged under the water line. The towers were built in 1891 

    and 1936. 


    Additional work in the area includes upgrades to the spillway and parapet wall at the top 

    of the Lower Crystal Springs Dam built in 1890, according to the SFPUC. 


    “When you live in California, you understand earthquakes,” said Carole Groom, 

    president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. “There is no more important 

    work than seismic upgrades to public infrastructure.”