study on tearing down hetch hetchy misses the mark

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A new study sponsored by a group determined to tear down the Bay Area’s leading clean water and power infrastructure tried to make an economic case for the misguided plan but excluded key impacts. The Bay Area Council has been a primary advocate fighting the group’s repeated and failed attempts over many years to dismantle the Hetch Hetchy system, which supplies clean, reliable and affordable water to 2.7 million residents and businesses in 33 cities and four counties across the region. The study claimed that draining the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and making it a tourist destination could generate as much as $178 million per year in economic activity.

But, the study notably did not evaluate the costs of draining and replacing the reservoir, which past estimates have put at $10 billion. It also failed to examine the damage to the Bay Area’s almost $750 billion annual economic output from having less reliable, most costly and less pristine water—not to mention the impact of eliminating the carbon-free hydro power the region gets from Hetch Hetchy. The Bay Area Council has a long history of defending the water system. In 2012, the Bay Area Council chaired the campaign to defeat a San Francisco ballot measure aimed at draining the reservoir (Proposition F was eventually rejected by nearly 77 percent of San Francisco voters). In 2018, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute found that water use in the Hetch Hetchy service area is the most economically productive in the United States. Today, work is nearing completion on the $4.5 billion seismic retrofit of the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct that was approved by voters in 2004. To learn more about the Bay Area Council’s Water & Climate Resilience work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.

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