The Tuolumne River Trust is pleased to announce the winners of our third annual kid's essay contest.
part of our education program, we asked Bay Area 4th, 5th, and 6th graders to
write essays about the Tuolumne River and water conservation. We received 31 excellent essays, and it was a very hard decision.
Our grand prize winner is Isha Rajput, a 5th grader from Palo Alto. Isha's essay "The Tuolumne River Needs Help!" can be found here.
Because of her wonderful essay and commitment to protecting the Tuolumne, Isha won a canoe trip for four on the Tuolumne River this summer.
Our second prize winner won a backpack stuffed with TRT goodies, and our third place winner won a backpack, both courtesy of REI.
To read other prizewinning essays, click on the student's name below:
Tuolumne River Trust wants to thank each and every student who entered,
for your passion for the River. We know that the River will be in good
hands in the future, with folks like you around to protect it!
The Tuolumne River Trust is opposed to the proposed water transfer (sale) from the Modesto Irrigation District (MID) to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). We're concerned it could further harm the Tuolumne River and would be a terrible investment for San Francisco and its wholesale customers in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda Counties.
The water transfer would:
Divert an additional 2 million gallons of water per day (mgd) in dry years from the 36-mile stretch of river between the Hetch Hetchy and Don Pedro Reservoirs.
Trigger negotiations for an additional 22 mgd water transfer (enough to fill 290,000 swimming pools per year).
Disincentivize water conservation, both in the Bay Area and the Central Valley.
Cost Bay Area water agencies more than $15 million over the 10-year contract.
Obligate Bay Area water agencies to pay for the water every year, whether it was needed or not. Projections from 2008 suggest the water would only be needed in one of five years, making it a terrible investment. Funds would be better spent on water conservation and recycling.
In 2008 the SFPUC considered its Water System Improvement Program (WSIP), including a plan to divert an additional 25 mgd from the Tuolumne River. We successfully convinced the SFPUC to cap water sales at 265 mgd until at least 2018, and to focus on water conservation and recycling instead of diverting more water from the River. The one remaining point of contention was the SFPUC's plan to pursue a water transfer.
Despite the fact that water use has declined by 20% since 2008, the SFPUC has continued to pursue the water transfer, and they now have a willing seller in MID. MID has $115 million in unfunded infrastructure improvements, and rather than raising agricultural water rates from less than $10 per acre-foot to something more realistic, they're hoping the SFPUC will cover their costs by paying them $700 per acre-foot for water whether the Bay Area uses it or not.
If the 2 mgd water transfer is approved, MID and the SFPUC will then enter into negotiations to transfer an additional 22 mgd, so we're basically back to the 25 mgd diversion we prevented in 2008. And this is for water the Bay Area doesn't need.
How does the water transfer threaten the Tuolumne?
The Tuolumne is already in serious decline. 60% of the River's natural flow is diverted for agriculture and urban uses. As a result, the salmon population has plummeted from historical highs of 130,000 fish per year to less than 1,000 in five of the past six years. Water quality in the lower Tuolumne River is listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act.
The Tuolumne needs more water, not less!
In March, TRT submitted comments to the SFPUC laying out our concerns about the water transfer. We reminded SFPUC officials that they had an outstanding obligation dating back to the 1980s to study fish and wildlife conditions in the River below Hetch Hetchy and to modify releases from O'Shaughnessy Dam as a condition of expanding their Kirkwood Powerhouse. The Department of Fish and Wildlife released a draft study with recommended instream flows in 1994, but it was never finalized or adopted.
The draft study recommended increasing releases from O'Shaughnessy Dam by 37%. When TRT brought this issue to the SFPUC's attention a few years ago, they agreed that their legal obligation had not been met, and they initiated an Upper Tuolumne River Ecosystem Project, with the goal of completing it and an Adaptive Management Plan by December, 2009.
Two-and-a-half years later, the study and plan are still incomplete, and yet without considering this new data, the SFPUC claims the water transfer would have a “less than significant” impact on the Tuolumne. This is the same mentally that led to current bad River conditions.
Why is the water transfer a bad investment?
The water transfer would cost the SFPUC and its wholesale customers $1.568 million per year. The contract would obligate payment of this sum every year regardless of whether the water was used or not. Water use and demand projections are way down since the transfer was initiated, so it's unlikely we would need any additional water for the foreseeable future, but we'd still have to pay for it every year.
In 2008 the SFPUC and its wholesale customers used more than 250 mgd. Last year that figure dropped to less than 215 mgd. Future demand projections also have declined dramatically. An SFPUC graph shows water use projections remaining flat over the next few years.
A recent SFPUC report acknowledged that while the cost of transfer water would be $700 per acre-foot, the actual cost of water used would be $2,423 per acre-foot. Water conservation, on the other hand, costs $1,089 per acre-foot.
A breakdown of cost per agency shows how much each city or water agency would be obligated to pay.
Why is it an especially bad deal for San Francisco ratepayers?
The goal of the water transfer is to augment dry-year water supplies. However, the drought allocation formula is very favorable to San Francisco, and there is very little chance the City would ever need additional water. Therefore, San Franciscans would pay more than $5 million over the 10-year contract for water they don't need, essentially subsidizing the SFPUC's wholesale customer agencies outside of the City.
For example, water use in San Francisco is expected to be 71 mgd in 2035 while the City's drought allocation would be 79.5 mgd in the third year of a drought. Systemwide water supply would have to drop by more than 28% to less than 190 mgd before San Francisco had to reduce its water use by a single drop, even in a drought.
What is a better alternative?
The $15 million for the water transfer would be much better spent on water conservation and recycling programs. There's tremendous potential for conserving water in landscape irrigation in the BAWSCA territory, where 26 water agencies purchase water from the SFPUC. You can view an editorial with more details.
What can you do about it?
Send an email to the SFPUC encouraging them to terminate negotiations for the water transfer and to instead promote water conservation and recycling.
Encourage your friends to visit this site to learn more about the issue.
If you live in the Central Valley, attend the MID meeting when they vote. In the Bay Area, attend the SFPUC meeting. Contact Peter Drekmeier to let him know you're interested in dates and details when they're available.
“The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, pursuant to the City's stewardship responsibility for the Tuolumne River, urges the San Francisco Planning Department and the Public Utilities Commission to analyze a water supply alternative in the Program Environmental Impact Report that will not result in increased diversions of freshwater from the Tuolumne River.” - San Francisco Board of Supervisors , June 12, 2007
“As you know, the Tuolumne River is a precious resource and the City and County of San Francisco should continue to protect it. Thus, the Commission urges the SFPUC to continue to find alternative ways to provide water supply to the service area that do not involve withdrawing additional water off the Tuolumne River.” - San Francisco Planning Commission , December 18, 2008
That's the Tuolumne In My Tap! The Tuolumne River Trust is offering a free presentation called "That's the Tuolumne in My Tap!" to 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classes in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and southern Alameda Counties - areas that get a major portion of their tap water from the Tuolumne River.
The presentation introduces students to the source of their tap water in hopes of fostering interest in water conservation and good stewardship of natural resources. The interactive presentation takes the class on a tour of the Tuolumne River, highlighting the wildlife it supports, a bit of history of the Hetch-Hetchy water system, and an overview of some current threats to the river. This is followed by a lively discussion about all the ways we use water, and how we can conserve it in order to protect the River.
Schedule a Presentation If you have questions or are interested in scheduling a presentation, please contact Paige Norberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-882-7252.
Volunteer The Trust will train volunteers who are interested in presenting this program to 4th and 5th grade classes around the Bay Area. Interested volunteers must enjoy working with kids, have access to transportation, and be available for at least 4 weekday school visits during the school year. Please contact Paige Norberg for more information: email@example.com or 415-882-7252
2.4 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area consume Tuolumne River water. The Tuolumne River Trust advocates that the City of San Francisco, which manages the Hetch Hetchy Water System, act as a good steward of the River. We encourage the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and it's wholesale customers to pursue a sustainable water plan that: a) makes needed system repairs; b) includes an environmental improvements component to fund restoration and protection efforts; and c) meets new water needs through conservation, efficiency, and recycling. We expect San Francisco and neighboring communities to serve as a model for other regions of the state and country.
Now that there is a cap on water sales until at least 2018, the Trust is partnering with the SFPUC and the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) which represents the SFPUC's 27 wholesale customers, to promote water conservation and recycling. We are doing so in the following ways:
Promoting a "cap & trade" water market system that will allow agencies to buy and sell water allocations and thus drive innovation.
The Tuolumne River Trust works with an alliance of
community and environmental organizations -- the Bay Area Water
Stewards -- to promote a sustainable water plan that invests in water
conservation and environmental stewardship.
Highlights of our
accomplishments include convincing the SFPUC to:
Drop plans to divert an additional 25 million gallons of water per day from the Tuolumne River, and instead meet future demand through water conservation and recycling until at least 2018.
Forego plans to construct a new 47-mile pipeline under the San Joaquin Valley that would have allowed 50% more water to be diverted from the Tuolumne River
Encourage your city council to take on an Earth Day project focusing on water conservation.
Encourage your city council to host a study session on water policies and practices. For an example from Menlo Park, click here.
Volunteer for the Tuolumne River Trust - for more information or to be added to our volunteer contact list, contact Bay Area Organizer Jessie Raeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415-882-7252 ext. 301.