San Francisco to Implement Water Surcharge in Response to Statewide Drought

By Alice Sun
Alice Sun
Alice Sun
November 29, 2021 Updated: November 29, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO—Starting next spring, San Francisco’s residents will need to pay more for water, which was introduced after the city declared a water shortage emergency last week.

Starting April 1, 2022, the utility commission will temporarily charge both drinkable water and wastewater treatment customers five percent more, which translates to approximately $6 per month for an average residential bill if water consumption stays the same.

“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,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

The surcharge will end when the emergency is rescinded by the utility commission, according to the city.

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the emergency measure to reduce water usage last week, asking residents to voluntarily cut water usage by 10 percent, compared to usage from July 2019 to June 2020, according to the city.

“We are in a drought with far-reaching consequences, and it has become clear we all need to do even more to address it,” said Dennis Herrera, the utility commission’s general manager.

The emergency measure applies to 2.7 million residential and commercial customers, covering San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties.

The city also plans public awareness campaigns in multiple languages to provide residents with tips and resources to save water.

According to the mayor’s office, the average daily water usage for San Franciscan is 42 gallons, already less than half of the state average of about 90 gallons per person.

The latest report of the U.S. Drought Monitor, a map updated every week showing the location and intensity of drought across the nation, shows that over 37 million Californians are affected by the drought.

On this week’s map, the four counties covered by the emergency measures—San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara—are mostly in “extreme drought,” the second-highest level of drought in the five-level system.

Epoch Times Photo
This U.S. Drought Monitor map shows drought conditions across California using a five-category system, from Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions to Exceptional Drought (D4), on Nov. 23, 2021. (Courtesy of the National Integrated Drought Information System)

Fire season may last all year long in “extreme drought” areas, where water reservoirs are “extremely low” and “inadequate for agriculture, wildlife, and urban needs,” as defined by the drought monitor.

Earlier this year, the utility commission also expanded its Leak Alert Program, alerting customers who have three days of non-stop water use, which is often caused by a plumbing leak.

Alice Sun