Let's Examine the Issues: Water Quantity and Quality - March 13, San Francisco
Because water is such a vital resource, it is important to understand where water comes from, how much is available, and how to ensure that we will have enough drinkable water in the future.
The Bay Area gets water from a variety of sources. A large portion of the Bay Area’s water comes from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park. This reservoir collects water from the 459 square-mile Tuolumne River watershed, fed by snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Other sources of water for the Bay Area include…
California’s water is distributed among urban consumption, agriculture, and the environment according to the pie chart below.
Having enough water for urban, agricultural and environmental purposes is crucial, but so is making sure that water is clean and safe. Although much of the area’s drinking water is high quality, there are regions in the Bay Area that get water from less pristine sources with contamination issues.
According to a recent study by U.S. PIRG that analyzed 2005 compliance with the Clean Water Act, California was one of the10 states with the greatest number of facilities leaking pollutants beyond the legal limits and was the state with the most large-scale violations.
The Bay Area is already dealing with water quantity and quality issues, but because of the future threats of climate change and population increase, both water quantity and water quality may be compromised in the near future. Climate change is expected to increase temperatures, raise sea levels and change precipitation and runoff patterns. These changes are likely to lead to decreased snow pack and the storage it provides during the late summer months, more variable precipitation, and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts. All of these changes will impact the Bay Area’s ability to get both the quantity and quality of water it needs.