Hetch Hetchy Cmmunity Benefits

(KTSF by Jessie Liang)

Early on from the drawing board to construction, turning hydro power into clean electricity for San Francisco was already part of the plan to build the Hetch Hetchy system. In addition, the system makes sure the area surrounding the reservoirs provides access to the public to enjoy the improvements to hiking trials and recreational areas.

As night falls, San Francisco glitters with neon lights. The Civic Center, Market Street, the Embarcadero are especially beautiful when they are decked out in spectacular street lights. They are the byproducts of Hetch Hetchy’s hydroelectricity.


The Hetch Hetchy system has 3 hydropower plants: Moccasin, Holm and Kirkwood. The Moccasin plant, built in 1925, is the largest of the 3 and is about 1.5 hour drive from the O’Shaughnessy Dam. Spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) Charles Sheehan said, “It’s one of the 3 power houses that make up the Hetch Hetchy Water and Power system. They have a combined generation of about 400 to 500 megawatts of power. We capture the gravity-driven water flowing downhill and take that kinetic energy and transform it into hydroelectricity, and transmit it to the city.”

Hydroelectricity can cut down on thousands of tons of carbon and provide 160 to 170 billion kilowatt hours of clean electricity to San Francisco. “It’s clean. It’s renewable. The City is fortunate that we get all our energy from this source that’s 100% greenhouse gas-free,” Sheehan said.

This electrical power supports city facilities, including City Hall, General Hospital, International Airport, Police, Fire Departments and the MUNI system.

In 2010, the SFPUC installed 24,000 solar panels on top of the Sunset Reservoir, the city’s largest. Sheehan said, ”The Sunset Reservoir’s solar arrays generate 5 megawatts of clean, renewable, greenhouse gas-free energy each day. It’s the city’s largest municipal solar array.”

The Hetch Hetchy system covers 23,000 square miles of land. The SFPUC collaborates with other cities and counties within their water districts to build recreational areas for residents. Pleasanton resident Kris Swanson said, ”I come here occasionally to have a nice lunch and relax, enjoy the temple and listen to the water.”

This is the Sunol Temple in Alameda County, a beautiful structure within a natural setting, decorated with plaques highlighting the temple’s history. Nearby a patch of land in this area is developed for farming purposes and irrigated by Hetch Hetchy water. Program Design Manager Paul Mazza said, ”There are local irrigation uses for it. Our agricultural and economic development is right in this area. We also provide water to the golf course.”

Across the Bay, the Pulgas Temple in the Peninsula is another sight to behold. SFPUC’s spokeswoman for the Water System Improvement Program Maureen Barry said, “The Pulgas Temple is a unique site for the water system. It’s been here since the mid-30s. The first water flowed here from Hetch Hetchy, in the Sierras across the state to the San Francisco Bay Area.” 

The Pulgas Temple is designed with water fountains, lined with trees on both sides, and creates in itself a touch of class. A Woodside resident said, “I always liked that pool. I always want to go in there to take a little dip, even though it’s only this deep.”

Another resident from Redwood City said, “Artistically it’s very beautiful. I think there’s great value in that because it’s able to bring people here. They also understand it’s a vital part of the system.” The temple is a popular venue for holding wedding events.

This is the Crystal Springs Sawyer Camp walking trail in the mid-peninsula. Visitors can explore nearby trails or ride bicycles. Spokesman Tyrone Jue said, “There are a lot of opportunities to give the public access to our facilities, yet still maintain the safety and quality of our water supply.”

The agency said it will continue to develop multiple resource programs, including underground storage, storm water collection, water recycling facilities, and irrigation with treated wastewater.

(Copyright 2012 KTSF. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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