The beginnings of a story about Prop F.

Prop F is a local San Francisco Ballot Initiative Question about our water supply and the Hetch Hetchy dam that will appear on the November 2012 ballot.

Which Way For Hetch Hetchy Dam? Photo Credit: Matt Fuller, GRI

While we eventually plan on taking a public position on Prop F, right now we are just trying to wrap our heads around it and understand exactly what the passage of Prop F would accomplish.

So while we do our own research, we wanted to take a moment and ask you what you think about Prop F.

Here are some resources we’ve found about it so far:

Below is the draft title and summary for the fall voter guide (PDF), as presented by the San Francisco City Attorney. See some of the above links for news about a lawsuit over the wording. However, this is what we have to go on for the moment.

Water and Environment Plan

San Francisco owns the Hetch Hetchy Water System (“Water System”), which provides water to about 2.5 million people in San Francisco and neighboring areas. Water System reservoirs collect snowmelt and rainfall from the Tuolumne River and Bay Area watersheds for use throughout the year. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) manages the Water System.

San Francisco’s largest reservoir is in Hetch Hetchy Valley, located in Yosemite National Park. The federal government authorized San Francisco to create the reservoir by building a dam on the Tuolumne River in 1923. Approximately 85% of San Francisco’s water comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which also generates hydroelectric power for City agencies. The remaining water comes from reservoirs in Alameda County and Peninsula watersheds. San Francisco does not filter Hetch Hetchy water but treats it and tests it over 100,000 times annually.

San Francisco is currently undertaking a $4.6 billion project to improve the Water System and develop additional groundwater, conservation, and reclaimed water supplies. Voters specifically authorized water revenue bonds of up to $1.6 billion for these improvements.

San Francisco discharges treated stormwater to the Bay and Ocean under a federal permit.
The proposed ordinance would require the City to prepare a two-phase plan that would identify alternative water sources and evaluate how to end using the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

The first phase of the plan would identify:
• additional local water sources, including increased groundwater, water recycling, storm water harvesting, gray water systems, conservation measures, and expanded water treatment capacity to accommodate filtration of all drinking water;
• additional water supply options, including storage, purchase, and conservation; and
• alternative renewable energy sources.

The second phase of the plan would evaluate how to:
• improve flows on the lower Tuolumne River;
• decrease stormwater discharge into the Bay and the Ocean; and
• end using Retch Hetchy Valley as a reservoir so it could be restored as part of Yosemite National Park.

The plan would include timelines to implement the first phase by 2025 and the second phase by 2035.

The measure would create a task force to oversee development of the plan (“Task Force”) The Task Force would have five members: the PUC General Manager, the General Manager of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, and three experts appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The Task Force would select and manage consultants to develop the plan.

The measure would require the Task Force to complete the plan by November 1, 2015, and require the Board of Supervisors to hold a hearing by January 31, 2016, to consider proposing a Charter Amendment to implement the plan.

The measure would appropriate any available City funds to pay for the Plan, with a maximum appropriation of 0.5% of funds voters previously authorized for the current Water System improvement project (approximately $8 million).


  1. says

    It is essential to understand (1) that this is a planning initiative – nothing will be implemented without subsequent voter approval, and (2) the “85%” figure refers to Tuolumne River supplies, not Hetch Hetchy Reservoir – analysis by government, universities and environmental groups shows that almost all the Tuolumne River supplies would still be available to SF and other Bay area cities. But some improvements to the water system would be necessary to offset the loss of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir – but note the system stores water in an additional eight reservoirs.

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