Hetch Hetchy water system, which brings the pristine water into the homes and businesses of San Francisco, is facing pollution danger from the out-of-control wild fires. The Hetch Hetchy water system is surrounded by the fire and once those ashes fall into the system, there's no way for the public works to filter it out, according to SF Gate on Aug. 27.
Hetch Hetchy is one of the few large-scale water systems that is not equipped with a filtration system. For a short-term fix, water has been shunted into supplemental reservoirs by the Public Utilities Commission officials before the ashes pollute the source.
There is no long-term plan since there's no way to filter the water. Once the rainfall carries ash and detritus into the watershed, the city may be facing problems to which there are no solutions. This could pose a problem for San Francisco that "could be legion," reports SF Gate.
Water expert and director of policy at Restore Hetch Hetchy, Spreck Rosenkrans, emphasizes that the highest priority is putting out the fire quickly. This is the only way to protect San Francisco's water and power systems.
Instead of a filtration system Hetch Hetchy is treated with ultra violet rays, which is fine for most people, but it doesn't kill some strains of bacteria that are problematic for people with HIV or AIDS patients. If this ash fall-out from the fire is anywhere near the predictions, then everyone in San Francisco may be looking at water problems in the near future.
Harlan Kelly, PUC director reports that San Francisco has lined up six months worth of reserve water. He also said that the water will have to be filtered if the ash overwhelms the water supply, but he doesn't know what that would entail as far as cost.
Rosenkrans said about the possibility of building a filtration plant:
"The filtration plants have never faced up to the challenge of having a lot of stuff in the water. They don't have the filtration capacity measured in millions of gallons per day to meet summer demand."
Meaning that this could be asking way too much out of a filtration plant from what is known of their capacity today, Rosenkrans has concerns on how to pay for such a mammoth plant that would be needed for a water supply the size of the Hetch Hetchy.
Rosenkrans is additionally uncertain how that would work, let alone how to pay for it. "There's no time to build filter plants" with this water problem on the front door step. "If ashes get in the water, they might have to ask people to cut back on use and bring in water from other systems," said Rosenkrans.