Hetch Hetchy Water Supply of San Francisco at Risk From Fire

Image: Hetch Hetchy Water Supply of San Francisco at Risk From Fire

Tuesday, 27 Aug 2013 10:04 AM

By Michael Mullins

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The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to 2.4 million people in San Francisco, Santa Clara, and other Bay Area municipalities, could soon be at risk from the massive wildfire that has ravaged thousands of acres of Yosemite National Park.

Falling ash emanating from Yosemite's rim fire could pose a potential risk to the water supply at the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, ABC News local affiliate KGO-TV reported. (http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/san_francisco&id=9220150)

As of now, however, the ash that has fallen is not believed to be a problem for the current drinking water flowing to area municipalities.

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However, by next spring the ash falloff from the rim fire, which is one of several ongoing blazes in the national park, could threaten the drinking supply.

"The more problem case we're looking at is the spring run off when the ash would come down from the water shed all at once when the snow melts," San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Deputy General Manager Michael Carlin told KGO-TV.

Carlin added that if necessary, steps would be taken next spring to correct the problem.

If for some reason the problem cannot be corrected as easily as Carlin suggests, officials from other municipalities, such as the City of Palo Alto, which depends on the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir for its entire water supply, says it has other options.

"Basically we're being told that we don't have to worry at all about having a supply of water; San Francisco has several local reservoirs that have many months' worth of water in them," City of Palo Alto Utilities spokesperson Debra Katz told KGO-TV.

Situated on the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park, the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir relies on 85 percent of its water coming from the Sierra Nevada snowmelt, according to the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) website.

The water is then pushed down to Bay area municipalities through the use of gravity and some 280 miles worth of pipeline spread out over 60 tunnels before arriving at 11 other local reservoirs, five pump stations and two water treatment plants, according to Bawsca.org.

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The rim fire has charred more than 134,000 acres or 200 square miles, and is only 7 percent contained, fire officials said late Sunday.

More than 2,800 personnel are fighting the blaze, which erupted outside the park in the Stanislaus National Forest on Aug. 17, according to the national Incident Information System.

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