This is Part One of a Council Corner that focuses on one of our most precious commodities – water. Try and imagine for a moment a scenario without fresh water, where you turn on the tap and nothing happens.
Have you ever thought of what your quality of life would be like without access to fresh water for 20, 30, 40, 50, or even 60 days? Those are some of the estimated times that we could be without the precious commodity should a major earthquake create extensive damage to our water system. We should be prepared before such an event takes place.
I wrote earlier about my concern for emergency preparedness and in particular our water. I also made note of our Public Works Department and role they play by doing their part of a much bigger picture to insure that we have both fresh water at our finger tips and waste water is properly handled.
In another article, I wrote about the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program and the preparedness training exercises they were doing. Their jobs would be difficult enough in their attempt to bring some semblance of order to a chaotic situation then add the lack of access to fresh water. If we had to contend with multiple fires, it would be much more effective if we had water at the fire hydrants rather than trying to pump salt water from our lagoon.
Currently, when you feel parched on a hot summer day, you will go to the nearest tap, fill your glass with some refreshing water and quench your thirst. Or, you go out your front door and notice that your well manicured lawn looks as though it needs tender loving water. Or, you have difficulty identifying the color of your car for the amount of dust and dirt that has accumulated on it. Then there all those things related to bathroom activities not the least of which is a shower. Now contemplate those and other related issues without water.
Other than the air we breathe, the next most precious commodity is fresh water as we are unable to survive for very long without it. Even though we on the Peninsula are surrounded on three sides by water, it is unusable in its present form.
Mother Nature has a process of extracting fresh water from the oceans, depositing it at higher elevations in the form of rain and snow, and then gravity takes over as the water seeks an outlet back to the ocean. Man has devised some ingenious ways of diverting water for irrigation, generating power from water utilizing the force of gravity, and storing the water in reservoirs for future use.
How often do we think about the complexity of our water system, particularly in the context of a disastrous major earthquake and the potential havoc it could cause to our water system? As a San Francisco native, I am acutely aware of some of the damage that was caused by the 1906 Earthquake as well as first-hand experience of the earthquakes we had in 1956 and 1989. Although those were small in comparison to some that have been felt in other parts of the world, I choose not to fool myself into thinking that “it won’t happen here”.
During July 23-25, I had the honor and pleasure of attending a 3-day tour of the Hetch Hetchy Water System which is owned by the City of San Francisco and operated by San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The tour was sponsored by the Water Education Foundation and co-sponsored by the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
In my next Council Corner, I will discuss some details about our water system and other facts that are very interesting and informative.
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