San Franciscans will vote in just a few short weeks whether to spend $8 million to study removal of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park. Since this idea has been studied many times before, and there are no alternate water supplies readily available for the Bay Area (or California in general…), I’ve stated before that this is a bad idea. I think a far more useful expense of money, energy, and discourse would be when San Francisco is going to get serious about water recycling…
Recently, the town of Novato, in the North Bay (Marin County), opened a 1.7-million gallons-per-day water recycling plant. That’s not a very big plant, relatively speaking, but it is 1.7 million more gallons that Novato will be recycling than San Francisco, every day. The article notes that San Rafael, another town in Marin County, also opened a water recycling plant just a few weeks ago. Neither of these plants will produce drinking water, but rather will supply golf courses and agricultural users. Fair enough, that means that those guys aren’t using drinking water.
Oxnard, a town in Ventura County, southern California, also recently opened a “world class” water recycling facility capable of treating 6.25 million gallons per day. Again, so far this facility will meet needs of agricultural and golf courses, rather than drinking water, but this will have the capability to hook into a public water supply, given the high level of treatment that this water will undergo (microfiltration, reverse osmosis, UV, and peroxide treatments…the peroxide seems like overkill to me, but I guess a factor of safety never hurts…).
These places are putting San Francisco to shame. Virtually nowhere in California can claim to have a water source that did not at some point degrade the environment. Dams and canals were built. But the best thing we can do is decrease our reliance on this infrastructure through smart water recycling and aquifer storage. Only then can we revisit the dams and canals and whether we really need them. So, San Franciscans, where’s the ballot measure about the city’s lack of any water recycling??