Burgeoning Bay Area buys time to boost water infrastructure

SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco’s humongous Hetch Hetchy water system is getting an upgrade. Responding to drought conditions, the city has decided to spend $4.4 billion to refurbish the area’s most extensive water infrastructure project.

Improving provision of the resource to almost 2.5 million people, however, requires no small degree of coordination and political sensitivity, Julie Labonte, director of the water system improvement program at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, tells San Francisco Business Times.

“Taxpayers want it as cheap as possible. Wholesale customers want reliability. Municipalities want things in exchange. Sometimes all these goals are not lined up properly,” Labonte says. The undertaking includes more than 81 project components and is due for completion in 2014.

In addition to infrastructure improvements, officials are also toying with desalination strategies and water-saving techniques. John Coleman, East Bay MUD board member, notes that “at some point, California is going to have to make some serious decisions on where our water comes from and how it’s used. We need to use water more wisely and create a new water supply.”

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Source: San Francisco Business Times