Sunday, May 13, 2012


From a public service ad on a Number 1 bus in the City of San Francisco, urging people to report water quality issues and "help us keep our water delicious":

San Franciscans Drink It. Hetch Hetchy Water Tap Water. It's Delicious.

Coincidentally spotted on the same day (May 11) the New York Times published an editorial which began, irresponsibly: "There is little doubt that natural gas, which is plentiful and cleaner than coal, could help with the country's energy and climate problems."

At first, when I saw the bus ad, I thought, "San Francisco's water isn't even as good as New York's, and here they care more about their water."

Of course looking into things a little further changed the entire picture.

Hetchy comes from a word used by a Native American tribe of California. Hetch Hetchy is a valley (might some say a caƱon?) within Yosemite National Park that was flooded to create a dam and create the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. The O'Shaughnessy dam was completed in 1923.

Since the valley's disappearance, plenty of people have been opposed to its unnatural transformation. Some of the opposers include members of the grassroots group Restore Hetch Hetchy, which recently pointed out in its February 23, 2012, draft ballot initiative:

The primary source of water for the City of San Francisco is the Tuolumne River. Many people believe the city’s primary water source is the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park because the system is called the Hetch Hetchy system. In fact, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is just one of nine reservoirs that store water for San Francisco. 

Before and after photos, from the book Guardians of the Yosemite: A Story of the First Rangers (1961) by John W. Bingaman.

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