Members of the SM County Historical Society are being treated to a fantastic quarterly newsletter in the Spring issue focusing on "Water for San Francisco" which also means water for the rest of us on the Peninsula. Two lengthy articles cover the history of the companies developing the dams, reservoirs and pipelines that form the complex system that ends at our faucets. Society President Mitch Postell leads off with the early history noting that water was a concern as far back as 1850; causing competing companies to dam rivers, flood towns like Searsville and buy land around reservoirs to safeguard the surrounding watersheds.
Our local historical scribe, Joanne Garrison, follows with an article that delves into the contributions of William Bowers Bourn II who became the president and controlling shareholder of the Spring Valley Water Company in 1908. Bourn was already wealthy and was able to upgrade facilities while simultaneously trying to sell the company to the City of EssEff; instead of the city building the Hetch Hetchy system. SF bought the company in 1929 and built Hetch Hetchy--and has done very little since.
But today's SF Comicle article describes the partial funding for some long overdue upgrades to our water storage systems across the state. Eight projects are listed as getting about half of what they need from Proposition 1 bond money.
Collectively, the projects would add about 4.3 million acre feet of water storage across the state, the equivalent of about a dozen of San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy reservoirs. “Getting the money is a greater step toward water reliability for the Bay Area region,” said Oliver Symonds, a spokesman for the Contra Costa Water District, which was allocated $459 million for the proposed $980 million expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir. With its allocation, the Contra Costa Water District hopes to break ground in two years on raising the dam at Los Vaqueros Reservoir in the East Bay hills by 55 feet. The district intends to share its additional supplies with other Bay Area providers, including the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Those agencies are expected to help foot the balance of the project’s cost.
The Prop. 1 funding for water storage is the most the state has allocated since construction of the State Water Project, which consists of 21 dams and hundreds of miles of canals, built largely in the 1960s.
So it is a start, but just as it is wise to index things like wage increases or tax brackets to inflation, any water supply plans need to be indexed for population growth (as well as ensuring that agriculture and trees are not starved for water). As Yosemite is being closed for the first time since 1990 due to a 37,000 acre wildfire and memories of the Santa Rosa fires are disturbingly fresh, we need to ask the question of whether or not Sacramento, San Mateo County and the City of B'game are really doing enough? I think not. In the meantime, do you have at least 15 gallons of water tucked away at your house?