This is an archive of a past election.
See for current information.
LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund If you appreciate our service to voters, please consider helping us with a donation.
Smart Voter
San Francisco County, CA November 6, 2012 Election
Proposition F
Water and Environment Plan
San Francisco County

Ordinance - Majority Approval Required

Fail: 74885 / 23.1% Yes votes ...... 249304 / 76.9% No votes

See Also: Index of all Propositions

Information shown below: Summary | Fiscal Impact | Arguments |

Shall the City prepare a two-phase plan that evaluates how to drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir so that it can be restored by the National Park Service and identifies replacement water and power sources?

Summary Prepared by The Ballot Simplification Committee:
The Way It Is Now: San Francisco owns the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System (Water System), which provides water to about 2.5 million people in San Francisco and neighboring areas. Water System reservoirs collect water from the Tuolumne River and Bay Area watersheds.

The Water System's largest reservoir is in Yosemite National Park's Hetch Hetchy Valley. The reservoir was created in 1923 by damming the Tuolumne River. The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir delivers 85% of the System's water. The water that flows from the reservoir also generates hydroelectric power for City services.

In 2002, the voters of San Francisco authorized the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to implement a $4.6 billion project to improve the Water System, including $334 million to develop additional groundwater, conservation, and recycled water supplies. The project is nearing completion.

The Proposal: Proposition F would require the City to prepare a two-phase plan to evaluate how to drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and identify replacement water and power sources. The implementation of this plan would require voter approval.

The first phase would identify:

  • new water supply and storage options;
  • additional water conservation opportunities;
  • expanded water filtration facilities; and
  • additional renewable energy sources to replace the reductions in hydroelectric power resulting from draining the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

The second phase would evaluate how to:
  • drain the Hetch Hetchy Valley and stop using it as a reservoir so that it can be restored by the National Park Service;
  • increase flows on the lower Tuolumne River; and
  • decrease storm water discharge into the bay and the ocean.

Proposition F would allocate $8 million to pay for the plan and create a five-member task force to develop it. Proposition F would require the task force to complete the plan by November 1, 2015, and require the Board of Supervisors to consider placing on the ballot a Charter Amendment to approve the plan.

Fiscal Impact from The City Controller:
City Controller Ben Rosenfield has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of Proposition F:

Should the proposed ordinance be adopted, in my opinion, there would be costs and benefits to the City and County. The costs would vary widely depending on how the City implements the ordinance, and on whether or not voters approve a Charter amendment that is specified in the ordinance. Planning costs over the next several years would be no more than $8 million. Future infrastructure costs could range from $3 billion to $10 billion if the voters approve a future Charter amendment specified in the ordinance.

Benefits cannot be accurately determined at this time for the large-scale resource and environmental objectives in the ordinance.

The ordinance specifies a planning process that would require the City to study and create; 1) an implementation plan for new water storage and treatment facilities and energy generation facilities sufficient to replace the capacity currently in the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and; 2) an implementation plan for removal of the Hetch Hetchy dam and environmental restoration of the affected areas and resources. The ordinance requires that the City draft a Charter amendment to allow a public vote in 2016 on these implementation plans. The ordinance specifies a wide variety of water, energy, and environmental goals that must be detailed in the plans, and requires studies of costs and financing methods for each. The water and energy plan would require implementation by 2025 and the plan for removal of the dam and related environmental restoration would require implementation by 2035.

There would be near-term costs under the ordinance of a maximum of $8 million under a provision requiring that the City appropriate funds for the planning effort. This amount is likely to be insufficient to complete the required work--in 2005, the State of California Resources Agency estimated the cost for a comparable planning and study process at $65 million.

The ordinance specifies that funds for the planning process and studies be appropriated from any legally available source and that other governmental or private sources could supplement City funding.

Significant long-term costs could occur as a result of the ordinance if a Charter amendment is eventually approved by the voters requiring development of new water and energy storage, transmission, and treatment facilities, removal of the Hetch Hetchy dam and reservoir, and implementation of environmental goals.

There are multiple possible methods for approximating these costs and estimates range widely. Under any method, the amounts are certainly substantial--in the billions of dollars. The State's compilation of estimates shows a range, in 2005 dollars, of not less than $3 billion, and up to $10 billion for these facilities and programs, depending on which elements of the water, energy and environmental resource issues are included. This estimate does not include increased operations and maintenance costs associated with the new infrastructure. In addition, the Public Utilities Commission estimates that the loss of hydroelectric energy and lost revenue from energy sales would cost the City an additional $41 million annually.

The ordinance states that funding sources for the water and energy facilities and the environmental programs that are called for could include federal, state and private sources. However, it should be noted that typically, water and energy facilities are funded by issuing 20 to 30 year bonds and the cost of this debt is recovered through charges to ratepayers. If ratepayer bonds were issued to replace Hetch Hetchy and build new water and energy facilities, customers of San Francisco's water and power utilities would experience rate increases. The Public Utilities Commission estimates that for every $1 billion in project costs, residential water users in San Francisco would pay between $60 and $170 more annually depending on how costs were distributed among local and regional users of the Hetch Hetchy system. As noted above, these large-scale costs would result not directly from the ordinance, but from voter approval of a future Charter amendment that is specified in the ordinance.

  Nonpartisan Information

League of Women Voters

This election is archived. Any links to sources outside of Smart Voter may no longer be active. No further links will be added to this page.
Links to sources outside of Smart Voter are provided for information only and do not imply endorsement.

Arguments For Proposition F Arguments Against Proposition F
San Francisco is an environmental leader. One great exception is when it comes to water:
  • We rank last in California in water recycling - we recycle 0% of our water;
  • We clean streets, wash cars and water parks with pristine Tuolumne River water rather than reclaimed water;
  • We discard our 20 inches of annual rainfall through sewers into the Bay and ocean;
  • We've virtually abandoned use of renewable local groundwater, using 75% less than we did in 1930;
  • Our 100-year-old water system does daily environmental damage to Yosemite National Park;
  • We're the only city in America to build a dam in a national park.

It's time to plan to do better. Proposition F is a safe and reasonable measure that simply requires San Francisco to create a plan for our water future.

Prop F caps planning costs at $8 million. No outcome is pre-determined, and nothing can happen without future voter approval.

Prop F creates a public taskforce with environmental and city water experts who will plan how San Francisco can:

  • Recycle 15% of our water by 2025;
  • Increase renewable local groundwater use from 3% to 19%;
  • Improve water quality by filtering all drinking water;
  • Decrease storm water runoff into San Francisco Bay;
  • By 2035, consolidate San Francisco's nine reservoirs into eight and restore Hetch Hetchy Valley to Yosemite National Park;
  • Develop renewable energy, wind and solar to offset loss of hydropower;

If San Francisco leaders were truly doing everything possible for water conservation, we wouldn't be ranked last in California for recycling.

It's time for the voters to lead, and let our leaders follow.

Vote YES on Prop F. Yosemite Restoration Campaign Restore Hetch Hetchy Planning and Conservation League Sierra Nevada Alliance Foothill Conservancy Earth Island Institute Wild Equity Institute Forests Forever National Parks Conservation Association Friends of the River

Rebuttal to Arguments For
No Rebuttal to the Proponent's Argument In Favor of Proposition F Was Submitted

We don't agree on everything, but we agree that Prop F would be a disaster for San Francisco.

Prop F is a veiled attempt to destroy Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which supplies reliable, clean water to 2.6 million people in over 30 cities across the Bay Area. Hetch Hetchy is a cost-effective system that utilizes gravity to deliver water and generates clean, greenhouse-gasfree energy. This energy powers San Francisco's public schools, streetlights, MUNI, fire stations, hospitals and other vital city services.

Prop F would:

  • Force the City to spend millions of dollars on a PLAN to destroy Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which stores 85% of the San Francisco's water and generates clean, hydroelectric power.
  • Pre-determine the outcome of the plan by coming back to voters in 2016 and asking them to destroy Hetch Hetchy + at a cost of as much as $10 billion.
  • Jeopardize the water supply for 7% of California's population, as well our source of publicly-owned hydroelectricity.

This bad idea has already been studied at least seven times in the past 30 years. These studies have shown that not only would the cost be enormous, but San Francisco would experience water shortages 1 out of every 5 years. It would also cost the City over $40 million annually to replace the clean power -- and force municipal agencies to purchase expensive, dirty power.

The City is already pursuing the conservation goals that proponents are using to camouflage their true aim
--draining Hetch Hetchy reservoir.

We shouldn't waste millions on a plan that would be disastrous for San Francisco. Say no to this "Trojan Horse."

Mayor Ed Lee Board President David Chiu Supervisor Eric Mar Supervisor Mark Farrell Supervisor Carmen Chu Supervisor Christina Olague Supervisor Jane Kim* Supervisor Sean Elsbernd Supervisor Scott Wiener Supervisor David Campos* Supervisor Malia Cohen Supervisor John Avalos

  • For identification purposes only; author is signing as an individual and not on behalf of an organization

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
San Francisco doesn't recycle any water.

San Francisco ranks last in California, San Franciscans expect more from our city leaders. If they won't correct it, voters should.

Why the scare tactics and misleading information? Because opponents of Prop F can't defend the city's poor record on water conservation and recycling. Don't be fooled.

FACT: Costs of Prop F are legally limited to $8 million. FACT: Prop F does nothing to our water or energy supply. FACT: No part of any future plan can be implemented without voter approval. Why we need a plan. Water experts agree: San Francisco's imported water use can be reduced with greater recycling, conservation, rainwater recapture, and use of local groundwater supplies. State and environmental studies agree: with modest water system improvements, greater conservation, restoring Hetch Hetch Valley is feasible while ensuring a reliable supply of clean Sierra water and clean energy for San Francisco.

The Prop F difference: previous studies were done without the cooperation of the San Francisco PUC. Prop F provides the first public planning process with a seat at the table for all Bay Area water consumers.

Let voters lead on water.

Prop F starts a necessary public dialog about our water future. And it gives voters a chance to lead our city to a more environmentally responsible water future. Please vote YES on F.

Yosemite Restoration Campaign Restore Hetch Hetchy Planning and Conservation League Sierra Nevada Alliance Foothill Conservancy Earth Island Institute Wild Equity Institute Forests Forever National Parks Conservation Association Friends of the River

San Francisco Home Page || Statewide Links || About Smart Voter || Feedback
Created: December 17, 2012 13:47 PST
Smart Voter <>
Copyright © League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
The League of Women Voters neither supports nor opposes candidates for public office or political parties.