Owned by San Francisco, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite
National Park provides water to nearly 3 million people in 29
cities across the San Francisco Bay Area. The water, provided by
snowmelt via the Tuolumne River, does not require filtration.
Stored in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir behind O’Shaughnessy Dam, the
water is delivered by a gravity based system and aqueduct to the
Hetch Hetchy has generated controversy since it was first
proposed as a source of water following the 1906 San Francisco
earthquake. Congress also had to approve the project because it
was located in a national park. John Muir and the Sierra Club
unsuccessfully fought the reservoir’s establishment since it
required flooding a scenic mountain valley. After its
construction in the 1920s, various groups have lobbied to restore
the Hetch Hetchy Valley to its natural state.
Although the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and the near failure
of the Lower Van Norman Dam have given rise to construction
improvements … the overwhelming majority of California dams
are decades past their design life span. And while earthquakes
still loom as the greatest threat to California’s massive
collection of dams, experts warn that these aging structures
will be challenged further by a new and emerging hazard:
“whiplashing shifts” in extreme weather due to climate change.
When Palo Alto officials adopted a position in 2018 in support
of the Bay-Delta Plan, which aims to protect the Yosemite
ecosystem by restricting how much water cities can draw from
the San Joaquin River and its tributaries, they knew were
swimming against the prevalent political tide. Prompted by
water conservationists and environmentalists, the City Council
went against recommendations from the city’s Utilities
Department staff and its water supplier, the San Francisco
Public Utilities Commission, which relies on the Tuolumne River
for much of its water.
It all started with a 2002 state law demanding quake-resilient
water delivery. Nearly $5 billion later, San Francisco has
retrofit the system from Hetch Hetchy to the city, just now
crossing the finish line on the shore of Lake Merced.
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is extending its
Emergency Residential Community Assistance Program, designed to
help customers struggling to pay water, sewer and Hetch Hetchy
power bills during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, which
launched in May, was originally set to expire Sept. 4, but will
now be expanded through the end of the year
In the waning moments of 2019, San Francisco’s Water Department
persuaded Congress to deny long-promised access to unreachable
areas of Yosemite National Park. This power play would ban
environmentally benign boating on Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The
move reverses the guarantees of improved access and recreation
which San Francisco made in 1913, when it pleaded with Congress
to pass the Raker Act and allow it to build the reservoir in
Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.
Republican and Democratic Leaders of the Arizona House are
again eyeing the state’s water supply as a major issue in the
coming legislative session. GOP House Speaker Rusty Bowers and
Democratic Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez have both
highlighted overpumping in the state’s rural areas as a major
issue for lawmakers when return to work on Monday.
Those who are the most politically correct among those that
lecture the rest of the state from their perches atop the 40
plus hills of San Francisco about the environmental
shortcomings of the rest of California should take a long hard
look in the mirror. They thrive on some of the original — and
most hideous — environmental sins ever committed in the Golden
The House has torpedoed a proposal to allow limited boating on
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park. Critics
feared the plan could introduce contaminants to the reservoir
that supplies famously pure drinking water for 2.7 million
people in the Bay Area. Boating on its waters has been banned
for nearly a century.
For San Franciscans … there are new worries for the city.
Fires now burn more regularly across the Sierra Nevada as well
as coastal mountain ranges. The flames may ruin plans for
weekend getaways to Yosemite or deliver noxious smoke to the
Bay Area. And locals may start to reach for air masks as
dangerously smoky days become more common.
A recent analysis by ECONorthwest, an economic consulting firm
based in Portland, Ore., estimates that a restored Hetch Hetchy
Valley, drained of its water and offering recreation options
and infrastructure in the same vein as Yosemite Valley, could
attract orders of magnitude more visitors.
There is hard reality that can’t be dodged in pursuing a dreamy
idea that’s existed as long as the 100-year old water and power
system. Pulling the plug on the watery expanse to expose the
original valley is much more complicated than a sunny study
commissioned by an anti-dam environmental group hoping to pump
up its cause.
It’s been over 150 years since the rivers in Yosemite National
Park flowed freely to the ocean without interruption by dams
and reservoirs. … But, as a study by researchers from the
National Marine Fisheries Service and UC Santa Cruz revealed,
even after a century and a half, the ocean-run legacy of
Yosemite’s rainbow trout lives on in their DNA…
Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley was dammed and flooded nearly
100 years ago, but the prospect of draining the reservoir
continues to inspire romantic imaginings… The fantasy of
Hetch Hetchy’s grand return was recently given new dimensions
with the release of an economic assessment concluding that the
valley represents a sunken treasure trove of tourism revenue.
It’s a treasure that is all too easy for Palo Alto to take for
granted — an abundant supply of pristine water that flows from
the Sierra Nevada snowpacks and passes through the Hetch Hetchy
system before splashing out of local showers and faucets. Palo
Alto is one of 25 cities that belong to the Bay Area Water
Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), which manages the
member cities’ supply agreement with the San Francisco Public
Utilities Commission. … Even so, the cities don’t always know
which projects they’re helping to fund.
The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the
history of the river’s development; negotiations over division
of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and
a chronology of significant Colorado River events.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed broke her silence on
California’s latest water war Friday, saying she wouldn’t
support a state river restoration plan that would mean giving
up some of the city’s pristine Hetch Hetchy water.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors issued a rare rebuke of
the city water department Tuesday, claiming the agency is on
the wrong side of a state water debate that pits California
against President Trump. The San Francisco Public Utilities
Commission, which provides water to the city and more than two
dozen suburbs, has fiercely opposed a far-reaching state plan
to revive California’s river system, including the languishing
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, because it means giving up
precious water supplies.
San Francisco has always been on the periphery of California’s
water wars — until last week. That’s when San Francisco
Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced with three co-sponsors a
resolution to the Board of Supervisors that San Francisco
should help maintain river flows in the San Joaquin by reducing
its take from the Tuolumne, a tributary.
Independent lab tests ordered by the San Francisco Public
Utilities Commission found no evidence of pesticides in San
Francisco’s drinking water, the agency announced Thursday. The
SFPUC collected and analyzed 21 water samples following a minor
panic last week after several residents in the Sunset District
complained that their store-bought water-testing kits yielded
positive results for the herbicides Atrazine and Simazine.
Their concerns were amplified over social media.
The California Supreme Court rejected a conservation group’s
lawsuit Wednesday seeking to drain Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy
Reservoir, a source of water for San Francisco and surrounding
Bay Area communities. Restore Hetch Hetchy, a Berkeley group,
argued in its suit that the location of the dam and reservoir,
which flooded a valley in the park after construction in 1923,
violates a provision of the California Constitution requiring
reasonable water use.
The rivers that once poured from the Sierra Nevada, thick with
snowmelt and salmon, now languish amid relentless pumping,
sometimes shriveling to a trickle and sparking a crisis for
fish, wildlife and the people who rely on a healthy California
delta. A state plan to improve these flows and avert disaster,
however, has been mired in conflict and delays.
A San Francisco woman who tested her tap water with a
store-bought kit and got a positive reading for pesticides,
then posted the results to social media, has prompted the city
to step up water testing not just near her home in the Sunset
District but across the city. Officials at the San Francisco
Public Utilities Commission insisted Tuesday, for the second
day in a row, that municipal supplies are safe to drink.
After toiling away in the remote hills east of Interstate 680
on the Alameda-Santa Clara county line for seven years,
hundreds of construction workers have finally finished the
largest dam built in the Bay Area in 20 years. The 220-foot
tall dam at Calaveras Reservoir — as high as the roadway on the
Golden Gate Bridge soars above San Francisco Bay — replaces a
dam of the same size, built in 1925.
When Spreck Rosekrans visits Hetch Hetchy – the valley in
Yosemite National Park that San Francisco turned into a
reservoir nearly a century ago – he looks beyond what is.
Instead, he envisions what once was and could be again.
… Hetch Hetchy is just 15 miles north of Yosemite Valley
and the two are often called twins
Repair and renovation work at the Moccasin Reservoir and dam in
Tuolumne County is under way nearly five months after a
punishing rainstorm pushed it to the brink of failure,
prompting the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people.
When Spreck Rosekrans visits Hetch Hetchy — the valley in
Yosemite National Park that San Francisco turned into a
reservoir nearly a century ago — he looks beyond what is.
Instead, he envisions what once was and could be again.“ I
imagine a meadow, dotted with oak, pine, and fir trees, and
with the Tuolumne River meandering through it,” said Rosekrans,
executive director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, a
Yosemite National Park officials on Tuesday extended the
shutdown of much of the park until Sunday because of ongoing
wildfire concerns while expanding the closure to include the
Hetch Hetchy area. … A San Francisco Public Utilities
Commission spokesman said officials are monitoring the water
quality but had no concerns at this time.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appears to be interested in
the idea of draining Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite
National Park after meeting with a group that wants to tear
down the century-old O’Shaughnessy Dam.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is interested in restoring the
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park to its natural
state after more than 100 years of providing water to the
people of San Francisco and some suburbs.
The push to drain Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and restore
the Sierra canyon to its natural state was rejected by the
courts — again — Monday, though opponents of the dam said they
plan to take their fight to the California Supreme Court.
News this week that a Bay Area non-profit’s dream of draining
the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir got a welcome boost in the courts
hit readers like a stick to a hornet’s nest. They loved the
news. They hated the news. They hated the people who loved the
The battle to drain the reservoir in Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy
Valley reignited Wednesday as critics of the historic dam told
a panel of judges in Fresno that their legal case to raze it
should proceed, despite an earlier decision to dismiss the
Two years after losing in court and six years after being
rejected by voters, a Berkeley environmental group is
continuing its long-running battle to drain Hetch Hetchy
Reservoir, a linchpin of the water supply for 2.6 million Bay
Area residents from San Francisco to San Jose to southern
Alameda County. … The group will pursue its
appeal Wednesday morning in the Fifth District Court of
Appeal in Fresno.
Water bills in San Francisco are set to rise steadily over the
next four years, after the approval of a rate schedule by the
city’s Public Utilities Commission. … In addition
to funding the commission’s regular operations, the rate
increases will pay for a series of ambitious infrastructure
upgrades to the city’s sewer system and vast Hetch Hetchy
network that sends drinking water to 2.7 million Bay Area
For the past five years, construction workers building a new
220-foot-high dam in the remote canyons east of Milpitas and
Fremont have been slowly discovering a long-ago,
not-quite-tropical world of buried treasures — from giant shark
teeth to whale skulls to pieces of ancient palm trees. Now the
huge haul of fossils beneath the Calaveras Reservoir is heading
for a permanent new home at UC Berkeley.
The Bay Area’s deeply unequal cities, home to mansions and
shacks alike, are linked by one thing: thirst. Banding
together, the region’s water agencies on Tuesday unveiled the
latest upgrades to a vast network that connects six million
people and provides mutual aid in a crisis, such as an
earthquake or severe drought.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is praising its
Moccasin Creek Hatchery workers after they saved nearly a
quarter of the hatchery’s trout when water from a nearby dam
flooded the facility.
San Francisco officials on Friday were still trying to figure
out why one of their dams in the Sierra foothills was driven to
the edge of failure a day earlier, but engineering experts were
quick to suspect errors in management.
Heavy rain in the Sierra foothills pushed a small dam within
San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy water system to the brink of
failure Thursday, sending a brief scare through the rural
region where roads were closed and a few dozen residents were
forced to evacuate.
The Chronicle archives overflow with photos documenting the
downstream journey of Hetch Hetchy’s water — an engineering
marvel that feeds power stations and fills reservoirs. So
here’s a follow-up to our previous column on O’Shaughnessy Dam
and Hetch Hetchy Valley.
It’s an environmental conflict that has been coursing through
California for more than a century: the unrelenting thirst of
San Francisco versus the pristine beauty of nature. After years
of debate, O’Shaughnessy Dam opened in 1923, holding back the
Tuolumne River and flooding Hetch Hetch Valley, a Sierra gem
compared in its grandeur to nearby Yosemite Valley.
San Franciscans take pride in drinking pristine water from
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which they treasure as among the purest
in the nation. So a recent move by the Public Utilities
Commission to introduce groundwater gradually into the city’s
drinking supply prompted anxiety and suspicion.
San Francisco’s famously pure High Sierra water is about to be
served with a twist. Starting next month, city water officials
will begin adding local groundwater to the Yosemite supplies
that have satiated the area’s thirst since the 1930s and made
the clean, crisp water here the envy of the nation.
Early 20th century visitors to Hetch Hetchy Valley, a few miles
north of Yosemite Valley, saw a rich meadowland and green oak
groves, with the clear Tuolumne River winding through them,
embraced by towering granite walls. It’s a landscape no one has
seen since 1923, when the valley was drowned by Hetch Hetchy
Reservoir, the main water supply for San Francisco, 180 miles
In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Act, which
allowed for the building of the O’Shaughnessy Dam to supply
earthquake-stricken San Francisco with water – at the expense
of an integral part of one of the world’s most beautiful
A judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to force the
city of San Francisco to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, a key
part of the water system for 2.6 million residents of Bay Area
cities stretching from Hayward to San Jose to San Francisco.
In a significant step for the largest reservoir project in the
Bay Area in 20 years, workers have finished building the
spillway — a massive concrete channel as wide as eight
lanes of freeway and a quarter mile long — at Calaveras Dam
near the Alameda-Santa Clara county line.
State water officials not only told more Central Valley farmers
Friday that they need to stop drawing water from low-flowing
rivers and creeks — but they tossed the city of San Francisco
onto the list as well.
Four years into a drought that has left many cities and farms
desperate for water, the vast Sierra-fed water system that
serves San Francisco and much of the Bay Area is in relatively
good shape — and should get the region through the dry months
ahead, officials said Tuesday.
The health, safety and economic well-being of 1.7 million
residents and 30,000 businesses would be threatened if Hetch
Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park is drained, says a
San Francisco water agency in reaction to a new lawsuit over
Spurned at the ballot box three years ago and facing an even
more uphill battle now because of California’s historic
drought, an environmental group has filed a lawsuit attempting
to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, a linchpin of the water supply
for 2.6 million Bay Area residents from San Francisco to San
Jose to southern Alameda County.
San Francisco is unreasonably monopolizing spectacular Hetch
Hetchy Valley by using it as a 117-billion-gallon reservoir,
says a new lawsuit in a decades-old fight to restore the
Yosemite National Park landmark.
In a tasting that could have evoked the joie de vivre of a Napa
Valley showroom if it weren’t for the stiff office chairs at
the water department and the inherent blandness of the fare,
five Chronicle food writers — amid boozy gurgles and talk of
soft finishes — were introduced to what will soon be San
Francisco’s new tap water.
This week, the $288 million tunnel begins carrying the Bay
Area’s water supply from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite
National Park to the Peninsula, bolstering the dependability of
the region’s water system.
Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch
poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural
hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants,
rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation.
Excellent for elementary school classroom use.
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Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the
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Located in the northwest portion of Yosemite National Park, Hetch
Hetchy refers to a valley in the Sierra Nevada and a reservoir that
supplies water to the San Francisco Bay Area. The valley is
drained by the Tuolumne
River. The name Hetch Hetchy is derived from a Sierra Miwok
word for a type of wild grass.
Owned by the city of San Francisco, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
provides water to 2.7 million residents and businesses in the San
Francisco Bay Area.