The Mercury News-Time has a very interesting front page piece on the drought and its ramifications on wildlife, electricity and people. It is well worth the read. Here are a couple of important points stitched together from the piece
Even though it’s first along the river, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages Hetch Hetchy, can’t just take all the water it wants. It is required to release water downstream so irrigation districts in Modesto and Turlock with older claims on the river get the water they are guaranteed. These mighty districts — whose canals extend for more than 400 miles — sit atop the Tuolumne River’s human pecking order because they made their claim in 1887, under a water rights system that emerged with the early settlement of California known as “first in time, first in right.” Their access to water trumps San Francisco’s. But they rank below the rights of wildlife, which are protected by federal law — a major source of conflict in the region’s age-old fight for water.
And the impact on electricity and revenue
Thirty miles from Hetch Hetchy, it plunges down a 1,000-foot ridge at the tiny town of Moccasin, an old stagecoach stop, where it is funneled into turbines to generate 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of power a year.
As a low-cost, no-pollution energy generator, hydroelectricity is a coveted power source. The Moccasin turbines generate so much energy, with such regularity, that they power much of San Francisco — from Muni buses and schools to the airport and port. Electricity is also sold to irrigation districts and on the open market.
This year’s low flow, however, means less electricity, Ritchie said. Normally, these turbines produce $7.7 million worth of energy to sell to irrigation districts and another $8.3 million on the open energy market. This year, there’s enough to power the city, but the commission expects to sell only $1 million to $2 million to irrigation districts — and nothing else.
If you read almost to the end you will get the story on the salmon impact as well, which we touched on here. I haven't heard anything about B'game rationing...yet. Here is the Pulgas Water Temple--our local shrine to H2O.