Airport, parks not cutting water use by 10 percent goal 

click to enlarge While some city departments that use water the most have not met the goal of reducing water consumption by 10 percent, Candlestick Park will be taken off municipal use in August. - MIKE KOOZMIN/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • mike koozmin/s.f. examiner file photo
  • While some city departments that use water the most have not met the goal of reducing water consumption by 10 percent, Candlestick Park will be taken off municipal use in August.

The grass is browner, fountains are shut off, trucks and equipment haven't been cleaned since February, and water use in city parks is down by almost 20 percent from 2009 numbers.

And yet the Recreation and Park Department is still using too much water.

To combat the ongoing California drought, water users across The City have been asked to reduce their water consumption by 10 percent.

That's less than the 20 percent cut requested by Gov. Jerry Brown, and much less than in other cities and towns under mandatory-use restrictions where neighbors report each other for washing cars and watering lawns.

Homes and businesses are doing their part, with citywide water use down by more than 10 percent in recent weeks, according to data.

But as of the end of May, the most-recent data period available, city departments had cut their water use by only 6 percent over the same period last year, according to data presented by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages the water supply.

"We're at 6 [percent], we should be at 10," said Charles Sheehan, an SFPUC spokesman. "We're making progress, but we need to do better."

Municipal use is a tiny fraction -- about 5 percent -- of the total amount of water used daily in San Francisco.

In normal years, The City uses about 75 million gallons a day during the summertime, when usage peaks. This year, The City has been going through closer to 65 million gallons a day, according to SFPUC data.

By total volume, The City's biggest water-guzzlers are San Francisco International Airport, the Housing Authority, the Recreation and Park Department, the SFPUC and the Department of Public Health, which manages San Francisco General Hospital.

Of those, the health department led the way with water savings with a 15 percent reduction.

The airport cut its use by 6 percent and the Housing Authority by 5 percent, with water use dropping by just 1 percent at both Rec and Park and the SFPUC, according to SFPUC data.

At Rec and Park, gardeners were told to water 10 percent less, pools and aquatic centers were told to find 10 percent savings, and fixing leaks was given new priority, according to a February memo from General Manager Phil Ginsburg.

There is some additional help on the way: Candlestick Park, which has a field still being maintained for use like Saturday's 49ers flag football fundraiser for the Police and Fire departments, will be taken off municipal use in August.

"We're going to do our best to comply with that 10 percent," Ginsburg told The San Francisco Examiner. "We think we can do it doing the things we're already doing."

Some water-heavy departments have managed to hit their reduction targets.

The Department of Public Works, which cleans streets and power-washes sidewalks on a daily basis, has cut its water use by 10 percent since January, according to the SFPUC.

One reason for those savings is DPW now uses some recycled water to fill its 3,000-gallon flusher trucks, Sheehan said.

In some cases, fire and calamity have kept other city departments from hitting their goals.

The five-alarm fire at the under-construction Mission Bay apartment complex in April, water-main breaks at City College of San Francisco and constant construction -- which requires surface areas to be wetted down to cut down on dust -- all soaked up significant amounts of water.

Most of that use is charged to the SFPUC.

All city departments are required to submit a detailed long-term water-savings plan by Aug. 1.

So far, all water conservation has been voluntary, with no penalties or fines for water-wasters. That could change if the drought continues or gets worse.

City keeps flowing

Municipal water users are under the same directive as citizens -- to cut water use 10 percent -- and The City isn't there yet.

City water use, Feb-May, 2013

1,496,481 CCF*

City water use, Feb-May 2014




*CCF = 100 cubic feet, or about 750 gallons

Big guzzlers

The biggest water users by volume need to cut water use more to meet reduction targets.

San Francisco International Airport

-2013 use

182,802 CCF

-2014 use

171,284 CCF

Savings 6%

San Francisco Housing Authority

-2013 use

151,858 CCF

-2014 use

144,100 CCF

Savings 5%

Recreation and Park Department

-2013 use

137,349 CCF

-2014 use

135,652 CCF

Savings 1%

Public Utilities Commission

-2013 use

77,398 CCF

-2014 use

76,557 CCF

Savings 1%

SOURCE: San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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