First water from new Bay Tunnel reaches Crystal Springs


Eighty years ago, the arrival of the first drinking water to make the long journey from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in the Sierra Nevada to Crystal Springs Reservoir was greeted at the site of the Pulgas Water Temple off Canada Road north of Woodside by a crowd estimated at 20,000 people.

On Wednesday, Oct. 15, a much smaller group met in the same place to greet the arrival of the first drinking water to travel from Hetch Hetchy to Crystal Springs via a newly completed Bay Tunnel, which goes under the San Francisco Bay.

The new tunnel should make the water supply for the Peninsula and San Francisco much more likely to be available after a major earthquake, officials say.

According to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the water system that serves San Francisco and the Peninsula was built in response to the 1906 earthquake and the devastating fire that followed it. The completion of the system was celebrated on Oct. 28, 1934, at the water temple site. The classical temple that is now at that location had not yet been built, so a plywood mock-up stood nearby.

The Loma Prieta earthquake, which happened 25 years ago on Oct. 17, was similarly the impetus for the Bay Tunnel and much of the other recent work that has been done to improve the system bringing water from Hetch Hetchy to the Bay Area. The tunnel replaces two aging pipelines that sat on the bottom of the Bay.

San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine was among the officials at the Oct. 15 ceremony, which followed a gush of water that sped through the water temple and down a culvert behind it to the reservoir.

"San Mateo County has been pivotal to the water supply of San Francisco going back to 1852," when the first water storage reservoir was built here, he said. Today, as scientists warn that another major earthquake could be imminent, the system is ready, he said, "This work was done ahead of "a possible disaster, he said.

Nicole Sandkulla, CEO of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, said she was "happy and relieved to see this water from the Bay Tunnel."

This is a project that will ensure a reliable supply ... through the future," she said.

The Bay Tunnel is just one part of the Hetch Hetchy Water System Improvement Program, with a $4.6 billion budget, primarily designed to assure water will still be available after an earthquake. The project also will develop new sources of groundwater and a supply of recycled water.

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