Late last month, Menlo Park officials unanimously approved a resolution that effectively gives the city more control over its water supply.
Menlo Park along with more than 20 other cities in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, all receive a large portion of their municipal water supply from the San Francisco Regional Water System, much of which comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
The reservoir, owned and operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, provides drinking water and hydroelectric power to around 2.6 million people across the Bay Area.
In 2012, an environmental activist group called Restore Hetch Hetchy got a ballot proposal (Proposition F) before San Francisco voters which called for the reservoir to be drained and for control the Hetch Hetchy Valley to be turned back over to the National Park Service.
Proposition F was resoundingly defeated by San Francisco voters, but in its wake it left behind a stark reality: Menlo Park and other municipal customers use two-thirds of the water provided by the Regional Water System, and collectively pay for two-thirds of the costs of operating and maintaining it, and yet none of them can vote on matters like Proposition F that could directly affect their water supplies.
In an effort to provide long-term protection for municipal customers, the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) and San Francisco officials amended the language in the water supply agreement to ensure that cities like Menlo Park get to vote before any significant changes could be made to the current condition Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
Each municipal customer of the San Francisco Regional Water System was given the chance to approve or reject the amendment individually. Unsurprisingly, it’s received unanimous support.
In fact, Arthur Jensen, BAWSCA’s CEO and general manager said that enough individual municipalities have approved the amendment to make it official. He called the changes to the water supply agreement both appropriate and significant.
“If (San Francisco was) going to change the basic water system so severely as by eliminating or replacing the reservoir..then that would have to be codified in a future amendment to the agreement, in which case they would all get to vote on whether to accept that amendment or not. The significance of that is to protect the customers.”
Before the Menlo Park City Council unanimously voted to ratify the new amendment, Councilwoman Kirsten Keith said “Now, San Mateo County actually has a vote on the water that is in the Hetch Hetchy. It was great to see that our neighbors to the north in San Francisco…approved an amendment giving us a vote on our water.”
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