SF Drops Plan to Drain Tuolumne

In Environment, Fishing, News, Restore Hetch Hetchy

In a shallow victory for environmentalists and those of us who live along the Tuolumne, San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission has dropped plans to siphon off an additional 25 million gallons of water a day from the already flagging river.

East Bay Express: “San Francisco’s plan to take an additional 25 million gallons of water a day from the wild and scenic Tuolumne River was an outrage. Over the next two decades, the proposed water grab would have damaged a spectacular watershed near Yosemite, devastated salmon runs in the Sierra foothills, and further threatened the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Nonetheless, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission was steaming ahead with its controversial plan late last year — until it ran into Peter Drekmeier and the Tuolumne River Trust.”

Drekmeier, Bay Area program director for the trust, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the Tuolumne, strongly opposed San Francisco’s plan and went to work to stop it. The SFPUC, which already siphons 225 million gallons of water of day from the river, had claimed it needed more to satiate the thirst of its customers — specifically, the 27 other Bay Area agencies that it sells water to. But Tuolumne River Trust staffers and others dug deep into San Francisco’s proposal and discovered that the supposed increased demand for water was wildly exaggerated.

For example, the City of Hayward, which already buys about 19.3 million gallons of water a day from the SFPUC, had told the agency that it would need a total of 27.9 million gallons a day by 2030. Hayward was projecting a 45 percent jump at a time when other cities are turning to water conservation and water recycling for their future water needs. But as this newspaper reported last year, a closer look at Hayward’s estimate revealed that it was based on overly optimistic projections of population and job growth. Eventually, city officials backed off their projections, and told the SFPUC that it should not rely on them, describing their water needs as “less urgent at this time.” “It’s clear that the projections for more water were inflated, and the projections for water conservation were underestimated,” Drekmeier told Eco Watch.

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