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San Francisco Mayor London Breed (Photo: Ronnie Rodriguez for California Globe)

San Francisco Declares Water Emergency, Asks For 10% System-Wide Water Reduction

San Francisco to add 5% water surcharge to help businesses and residents comply with voluntary measure

By Evan Symon, November 25, 2021 2:26 am

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, along with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) announced on Tuesday that there is now a water shortage emergency in effect, calling for large reductions across the Bay-spanning system.

According to the new emergency measure, a 10% voluntary reduction in water usage compared to water use from July 2019 to June 2020 will be applied. All of SFPUC’s 2.7 million customers, which includes the counties of Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara, will be affected. Broken down by county, San Francisco is going to be asked for a 5% drop due to having already reduced water usage this year, with the other three counties looking at a 14% drop.

To help ensure  that businesses and residents comply, a 5% drought surcharge will be added to water bills, mirroring the 5% drop asked of San Francisco. In total, people’s bills are estimated to go up by only about $6 per month.

“With California still experiencing devastating drought and the uncertainty around this rainy season, we need to make tough decisions that will ensure that our water source continues to be reliable and dependable for the future,” Mayor Breed said in a statement. “Year after year, San Franciscans step up to conserve our most precious resource, resulting in one of the lowest water usage rates in California, and during this critical time, I know that our City will once again meet the call to reduce water use.”

SFPUC officials also commented on Tuesday and Wednesday about the new measures being taken.

“We are in a drought with far-reaching consequences, and it has become clear we all need to do even more to address it,” noted SFPUC General Manager Dennis Herrera “San Franciscans have been doing their part and have some of the lowest water usage in the state. This emergency water shortage declaration will help all of our customers pull together and move in the same direction. We know we can rely on each other. I’m confident that everyone will do their part so we can all get through this.”

SFPUC Commission President Anson Moran added, “We need everyone to take action to preserve and stretch our limited water supplies. San Franciscans and our wholesale customers have been doing a good job when it comes to being efficient with their water use. We can all do better. We look forward to working with all of our customers to further reduce water use.”

A voluntary 10% drop in water usage across 4 counties

SFPUC will also be launching an awareness campaign on water usage. The utility commission  will include ways for people to reduce water to help achieve the 10% targeted system-wide reduction, including fixing leaky toilets, installing low-flow fixtures, reducing outdoor irrigation, and receiving water usage audits from SFPUC professionals.

The San Francisco/SFPUC measure comes a month after Governor Gavin Newsom added San Francisco County and multiple Southern California counties to the California-wide drought state of emergency. While the state had attempted a 15% across the board reduction in water usage in July, the voluntary nature of Governor Gavin Newsom’s reduction target only caused rates to go down by 1.8%.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, the 2021 water year was the second driest in California’s recorded history, barely coming above 1924. In San Francisco, that dryness caused the city’s reservoir supply to go down to 73% from 80% a year ago, with state of emergency policies not allowing about one-third of that supply to be used. Higher temperatures along with lower precipitation levels, less snowpack mass in recent years in the mountains and state actions such as releasing about half of all stored water in reservoirs to the ocean for environmental purposes have caused the dire situation in the state, particularly in the North and Central regions.

“They’re trying to think of everything they can before putting in mandatory programs to reduce water usage,” explained water engineer Shane Alexander, who has worked on numerous water projects in California and with other states affected by droughts, to the Globe on Wednesday. “This is what poor water planning does. People think they’re fine during wetter periods, so they stop conserving and start using all that extra water for environmental or other programs to look good, but then when it comes time to really need that water you suddenly can’t cancel all of these high-water using programs because they’re tied in with laws, so you need to make the cuts at the agricultural and residential levels. So we’ve seen farms cut off from water and we’re seeing more and more restrictions and calls for lower usage like we have from San Francisco.”

More new water reduction policies are expected in the coming months as reservoir levels in Northern California continue to go down.

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14 thoughts on “San Francisco Declares Water Emergency, Asks For 10% System-Wide Water Reduction

  1. As much as 85% of tap water flowing into San Francisco and other Bay Area regions is hijacked from the Tuolumne River which feeds the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water Reservoir located inside Yosemite National Park and it’s sent hundreds of miles to the Bay Area via a canal. The liberal Democrat controlled city of San Francisco would not exist if it had to depend on local water supplies?

  2. Interesting this comes out after the arrest of the SFPUC director …. almost like the national security state got rid of the person who would tell the truth in order to manufacture a crisis so that highly-influential people in the tech sector would sincerely believe there is a water emergency.

  3. STILL no new water storage or desal capacity being built, huh???

    California is run by IDIOTS, and Breed appears to be one of the DUMBEST…

  4. As the drought continues into this winter, drastic measures need to be taken.
    Hopefully soon, our excellent governor will declare a water emergency. Every Californian needs to do their part to conserve water. Mandatory rationing needs to be on the table for the governor to consider.

    1. Maybe the first thing YOUR “excellent governor” could do is quit releasing our fresh water storage from reservoirs out into the sea to save the delta smelt. In 2019 we had our reservoirs full of water from a wet winter that gave us a supply for five years under normal use but your “excellent governor” and Democrats see fit to release half of it out to the sea. If you say this is “right wing propaganda” look into the archives of California Globe and look into the articles that Katy Grimes has written about this. You might learn something but I doubt it because it will be more “right wing propaganda” to you.

  5. Of course CA will implement a FINE dressed up as a “surcharge” to “help” residents comply. Help residents comply by financial punishments when Americans are already feeling the pain of inflation. Thanks for the help.

  6. SF and the state of CA…run by utter fools. Breed is a joke. She parties without a mask even while demanding others wear masks. And Newsom…simply the worst. Can’t believe anything either of these two say.

  7. Just curious Mayor Breed, how many gazillions of water is being used in San Francisco to clean the poop off the streets? That is a lot of extra water that could be used else where. Maybe you should fix your bum and junkie problem before you ask the rest of us to conserve more! Maybe you should be a little more considerate of your neighbors to the north, south and east of you! The rest of the Bay Area should not have to shoulder the burden you and the super majority have caused!

    1. Oh my goodness CaliGirl, this is why I like your posts. You make me aware of things I never thought of. You are right about the daily, twice daily or three times to clear urine and feces off sidewalks. Once again I think we few taxpayers pay for everything for the progressives legislation.

      1. @Stacy, Thank You. Living in California my entire life I remember what it once was and how it has devolved. Unqualified political hacks such as Mayor Breed, all feed off the same dangerous ideology as the former Obama administration so well demonstrated. The former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and policy advisor Cass Sunstein taught these hacks to never let a “crisis” go to waste. The S.F. water crisis is a nudge to get us to pay more for water. The Covid19 has been used to nudge us into accepting government overreach in just about every aspect of our lives!
        You are right Stacy they will gladly ask all of us to literally pay for their misgivings.

        A little reminder of what they said 10 years back:
        Rahm Emanuel clip:
        Cass Sunstein:

    2. Spot on again Cali Girl! That is a whole lot of water. Maybe Mayor Breed could bring the junkies and bums to her house!

      1. Yes, she should bathe them, feed them, clothe them and inject them with their drug of choice. Then she can turn up the Tony, Toni, Tone tunes and get their groove on!

  8. There have been droughts in California for hundreds, if not thousands of years in California. If you would like an ample supply of water, vote Republican. If you would like continual shortages and high prices, vote Democrat. It’s really that simple.

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