San Francisco Declares Water Shortage Emergency, Urges Residents to Reduce Usage

By GQ Pan
GQ Pan
GQ Pan
November 24, 2021 Updated: November 25, 2021

San Francisco has declared a water shortage emergency and is calling on nearly 3 million residents in four Bay Area counties to conserve water.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), which oversees a system of pipelines, pumps, and tunnels that carry most of the Bay Area’s water 160 miles from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park, said Nov. 23 that it has unanimously approved measures to further conserve and reduce water usage across its 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, San Francisco will be committed to reducing its system-wide water consumption by 10 percent, compared to water use from July 2019 to June 2020. The voluntary reduction will be applied to all of the SFPUC’s 2.7 million customers, which include those in San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties.

As of Nov. 23, more than 37 million Californians live in areas categorized as “extreme drought,” which covers approximately 80 percent of the state, according to a drought monitor developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. An area experiencing “extreme drought” usually means a year-around fire season, severely depleted water reservoirs, and inadequate water for agriculture, wildlife, and urban needs.

“With California still experiencing devastating drought and the uncertainty around this rainy season, we need to make tough decisions that will ensure that our water source continues to be reliable and dependable for the future,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

“Year after year, San Franciscans step up to conserve our most precious resource, resulting in one of the lowest water usage rates in California, and during this critical time, I know that our city will once again meet the call to reduce water use,” she said, noting that San Franciscans’ average daily water use of 42 gallons per day is already far lower than the statewide average of about 90 gallons per person per day.

Part of the declaration of emergency will also include a water conservation public awareness campaign, according to the mayor’s office. There will be multilingual media advertisements urging people to take actions such as fixing leaky toilets, installing low-flow fixtures, and reducing outdoor water usage.

Earlier this summer, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked people in the Golden State to cut household water consumption by 15 percent, citing a prolonged drought and record-breaking temperatures across the western United States.

“I want to underscore voluntary water conservation,” Newsom said in July. “We are hopeful that people will take that mindset brought into the last drought and extend that forward with a 15 percent voluntary reduction not only on residents, but industrial, commercial operations, and agricultural operations.”

GQ Pan