This week, the San Francisco Superior Court confirmed the ballot summary language used to describe Proposition F. While there was much debate over the measure’s wording, its underlying purpose remains abundantly clear. If passed, Prop. F will require The City to prepare a costly plan that, if enacted, would drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and jeopardize The City’s water rights, resulting in huge water rate increases to construct a new delivery system.
At best, Prop. F is a colossal waste of taxpayer money at a time when resources are already scarce. The development of the plan alone would cost up to $8 million over the next three years. According to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, implementing it would cost up to $10 billion more for water system re-engineering, environmental restoration and the replacement of lost hydroelectric energy and infrastructure associated with the system.
More critically, the measure threatens 85 percent of the drinking supply for 2.5 million residents and thousands of businesses in San Francisco and across Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. On a daily basis, the Hetch Hetchy regional water system can store up to 117 billion gallons of clean, reliable water. As California continues to struggle with the demands placed on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the Hetch Hetchy water system is one of the state’s most valuable water resources.
In addition, Prop. F will put a strain on power. The power system associated with Hetch Hetchy supplies 100 percent of the municipal power needs of the city of San Francisco. Generated almost entirely by gravity-driven water, Hetch Hetchy power is also clean — emitting no greenhouse gases and producing no harmful waste or by-products.
The initiative’s sponsors say the measure is more about improving The City’s water use plan than draining the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. They claim that San Francisco is not using its water supply efficiently and should do more to reclaim and recycle its own groundwater and rainwater. This is simply untrue.
San Francisco is a good water steward. In fact, The City has the lowest per-capita water use rate of any large city in California, using less than half of the state’s per capita average. The SFPUC is working to conserve an additional 4 million gallons of water a day by 2018 through its Water System Improvement Program, a $4 billion voter-approved upgrade to the existing system. And the commission continues to move forward with plans to open four new groundwater well stations and several other initiatives to expand water recycling and rainwater harvesting citywide.
As voters are asked to weigh in on Prop. F, we are also being asked to raise taxes and make investments in education, housing, parks and other vital services The City and state can no longer afford. With so many pressing needs, this hardly seems like the time to spend $8 million on a plan that at best, will never get implemented, and at worst, will dismantle an existing and reliable water source for millions of Bay Area residents. Save Hetch Hetchy. Vote no on Prop. F.
Steve Falk is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.