Ballot initiative aims to change SF water supply

February 29, 2012 7:06:13 PM PST
Some people who want to change the way San Francisco gets its water kicked off their campaign Wednesday. Under their plan, the city might eventually stop using the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park and turn to local water sources instead.

With a signature and a $200 check, the group "Restore Hetch Hetchy" filed papers for a ballot initiative looking to change San Francisco's water supply.

"What it requires is for San Francisco to develop a plan to reform its 19th-century water system and figure out are there ways to adopt more sustainable water practices," says Mike Marshal with Restore Hetch Hetchy.

A more sustainable system would include water recycling, the collection of rainfall, and the use of ground water. These are things, they say, would allow the city and other places in the Bay Area to depend less on the Hetch Hetchy reservoir.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee opposes the idea. "I think it's a wasteful idea and one that doesn't reflect, I think, the care that we've had for the system, and how we've tken care of it, and the value of having clean water and clean power for the whole Bay Area," he said.

The plan calls for relying more on the other eight reservoirs that stores the water coming from the Tuolomne River. "What we're arguing is we can be better stewards of it. We can store it elsewhere so it's less of impactful on the environment and we can develop our local water supply so we can use less Tuolumne River water," Marshall says.

The Hetch Hetchy reservoir stores 117 billion gallons of water. The general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission says doing away with it is not an option. "So, when you say, 'Let's just move the water someplace else,' you can imagine not a lot of places can store 117 billion gallons of water," says Ed Harrington with the PUC.

The group Restore Hetch Hetchy must now collect nearly 10,000 signatures in order to put the initiative on the November ballot.


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