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San Francisco Declares Water Shortage Emergency

Effectively immediately, SF has declared a 10% reduction in water usage across its regional system
By - posted 11/23/2021 No Comment

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission declared a water shortage emergency and approved measures aimed at further conserving and reducing water usage across the SFPUC’s service territory in response to exceptionally dry weather conditions that have affected the entire state over the past two years.

As a result of the emergency measure, which the SFPUC unanimously approved, San Francisco has declared a 10 percent reduction in water usage across its regional system. The 10 percent reduction will be compared to water use from July 2019 to June 2020 and will be applied to all of the SFPUC’s 2.7 million customers, which include customers in San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties. The call for voluntary water reduction will go into effect immediately.

The average San Franciscan uses 42 gallons of water per day at home—one of the lowest rates in California and less than half of the statewide average of about 90 gallons per person per day. In April, the SFPUC called upon its 1,600 irrigation customers and City departments to reduce water use and asked all customers to reduce water waste, which helped lead to an overall reduction of water use in San Francisco through November 2021.

However, with the state continuing to experience extremely dry weather overall, the SFPUC is expanding on those efforts by declaring a water shortage emergency, which will help the agency access water reserves and resources available only during emergencies.

The SFPUC has about 360,000 acre-feet of reserve water in its water bank. An acre-foot is enough water for about two California households annually on average. However, the State Water Board’s curtailment orders, emergency regulations issued in August 2021 that restrict diversions from the Tuolumne River watershed, effectively prevent the SFPUC from accessing that water bank. Due to the Water Board’s curtailment orders, the SFPUC and its retail and wholesale customers are less prepared to address drought conditions moving forward.

Declaring a water shortage emergency carries with it the requirement that the SFPUC institute a temporary drought surcharge for retail water and wastewater customers of up to 5% on part of their bill. The SFPUC Commission voted to introduce the surcharge on April 1, 2022. The effect on the average residential customer’s bill is estimated to be a little over $6 per month if they made no reductions to their water use. The temporary drought surcharge will automatically end when the SFPUC Commission rescinds the water shortage emergency declaration.

Earlier this year, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a Drought Emergency for 50 of the 58 counties in California and called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 15 percent. The state’s ongoing drought has increased the significance of water reuse, recycling, and conservation programs, measures SFPUC has long championed.

The SFPUC is expanding its water recycling programs, encouraging water reuse for non-drinking purposes such as landscape irrigation, toilet flushing, and street-cleaning.

The agency recently expanded its automated Leak Alert program and has imposed permanent water waste restrictions in San Francisco. Restrictions include avoiding runoff from irrigation and outdoor cleaning and limiting the hosing of sidewalks and hardscapes to only address health and safety needs.

Additionally, the agency offers many resources to encourage efficient water use for customers. These include free onsite irrigation checkups and landscape evaluations and extensive indoor water-saving assistance, including a free replacement of old residential toilets, rebates for efficient clothes washers and other equipment, and home and business conservation consultations. More information is available at www.sfpuc.org/savewater.

Read more at Office of the Mayor