SAN FRANCISCO—On Friday, June 26, the State Water Resources Control Board issued orders cutting San Francisco’s water rights at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
The order was sent to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission along with hundreds of farmers in Central Valley.
The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which lies in Yosemite National Park, is fed water by the Tuolumne River, which in turn gets its water from the snow in Sierra Nevada.
The city pays $30,000 a year to use the reservoir, which supplies 80 percent of the water used by 2.6 million people in San Francisco and surrounding areas. It is also a source of hydroelectric power, with the capacity to supply 20 percent of San Francisco’s electricity.
According to SWRCB, there is not enough water in the Tuolumne River to maintain the reservoir after the four-year drought in California. They have started cutting water rights that were in place before the 1914 regulatory system of California, and San Francisco’s water rights date back to 1902.
City officials say that this order does not apply to the water that is in the reservoir, so the city has enough water to last at least a year.
Other areas that had their rights cut, especially those with farmland, warn the board that they will take the water regardless. Farmers have had to let their harvest die due to the water shortage. There have already been lawsuits against the state concerning the drought and water cuts taking place.
The fine for taking water is $1000/day of pumping and $2,500/acre-foot of water.
San Francisco’s water is one of the cleanest municipal waters in the US. They need only to disinfect it with ozonation; no filtering is required.
The city continues to advise individuals to conserve water by limiting water use in the garden, running only full loads in dishwashers and clothes washers, and installing efficient toilets. They also advise not to let tap water flow constantly and not to water sidewalks.