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Annual Water Resources Report Highlights SFPUC’s Innovative Sustainability Efforts During the Pandemic
Despite public health crisis, agency succeeded on efforts to support conservation and sustainability practices
Posted Date: 12/10/2020 10:00 AM
San Francisco, CA –Innovation, resiliency and adaptation are key trademarks of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s annual Water Resources Report, which highlighted the agency’s efforts to promote conservation and maintain a resilient and safe water supply during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“No one could have predicted just how difficult this year would be, but thanks to the efforts of our Water Resources team and the collaboration of residents and businesses, we were still able to achieve our considerable sustainability goals,” said Acting SFPUC General Manager Michael Carlin. “We always talk about resiliency at this agency—and this year truly showed our commitment to that cause.”

With the pandemic requiring social distancing and other safe health practices, the SFPUC pivoted its conservation efforts to meet those new realities. The Water Resources team made its popular Water-Wise Evaluations available by phone and video, instead of in-person. Water leak alert programs were expanded to notify business owners remotely of any issues. Stringent health and safety protocols were put in place for onsite landscape evaluations. The agency continued to move forward with its Plumbing Fixture Replacement Program, a popular program to replace old, water-wasting fixtures with free water-saving toilets, faucet aerators, and showerheads following detailed health and safety protocols during installations.
The result is that San Francisco residents have continued to maintain some of the lowest water usage rates in California. During the 2019 – 20 Fiscal Year, City residents consumed an average of 42 gallons of water per person per day, less than half of the statewide average of 89 gallons.

While promoting its conservation practices, the SFPUC continues to pursue forward-thinking efforts to diversify its water supply—an essential effort in the age of climate change uncertainty.

“Weather patterns are increasingly hard to predict, which means that devastating droughts could return to California,” said Paula Kehoe, the SFPUC’s Director of Water Resources. “In order to be resilient and survive those extended dry periods, we need to continue to expand our array of different water sources and explore new and innovative sources.”

The SFPUC continued to expand its water recycling programs, which reuse water for non-drinking purposes such as landscape irrigation, toilet flushing and street cleaning. Despite the pandemic, construction continued on the Westside Enhanced Water Recycling Project, a critical undertaking that is set to be completed in 2021. Additionally, the SFPUC continued on its Groundwater Supply Project, an innovative initiative that allows the City to supplement its drinking water sources by blending a small amount of groundwater.

Since first supporting a citywide ordinance in 2012, the SFPUC has become a national pioneer in onsite water reuse programs, which allow for the collection, treatment, and use of alternate water sources for non-potable applications in individual buildings. The SFPUC received 21 applications during the past fiscal year for such projects and the agency has been the chair of a National Blue Ribbon Commission to explore groundbreaking onsite water reuse technologies.

The full 2019-20 Water Resources Report is available to view here.
About the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission 
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is a department of the City and County of San Francisco. It delivers drinking water to 2.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area, collects and treats wastewater for the City and County of San Francisco, and generates clean power for municipal buildings, residents, and businesses. Our mission is to provide our customers with high quality, efficient and reliable water, power, and sewer services in a manner that values environmental and community interests and sustains the resources entrusted to our care. Learn more at