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Water Supply Update

Voluntary Water Conservation - Goal is 10% Reduction

On January 31, 2014, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) officially asked all customers of the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System to voluntarily curtail water consumption. The goal is to reduce system-wide usage by 10%. The request applies to all residential, commercial, industrial, municipal and wholesale customers that receive water from the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System.

February storms brought much needed rain and snow to Northern California, but did little to address the dearth of precipitation over the past few years. Precipitation at Hetch Hetchy to-date is still only 34.7% of annual normal precipitation. Snowpack levels at Hetch Hetchy also increased by 10% in the past few weeks but are still only 32% of median April 1 snowpack conditions. Locally, Bay Area watersheds to-date have only received 33% of normal average annual precipitation. 

To learn more, please read our updated press release.

Original announcement press release.

Visit our Water Conservation section to read more about how you can help meet the 10% voluntary reduction goal and find answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about the drought.

Water Conservation For Homes and Businesses

As always, the SFPUC encourages our customers to conserve water. Here are some helpful tips to conserve water around the house.

  1. Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth, shaving, rinsing vegetables or doing the dishes - save 2 gallons per minute.
  2. Take shorter showers. Each minute you cut saves 2.5 gallons. Make sure you have installed a high-efficiency showerhead. Fill bathtubs halfway at most.
  3. Operate your clothes and dishwashers with full loads only, even if the machine has an adjustable load setting.
  4. Use a broom to clean sidewalks, driveways and pavement instead of using a hose.
  5. Don’t use the toilet to flush away trash.
  6. Water lawns and plants at night or early morning before dawn to reduce evaporation.
  7. Detect leaks. Do you hear the toilet running or your faucet dripping? Contact us or your local water agency for information on locating your water meter and detecting plumbing leaks using meter readings. Conducting a dye-test in toilet tanks can identify costly silent leaks.
  8. Install aerators on bathroom and kitchen sinks to reduce indoor water use by ~4%.
  9. Replace your old toilet, the largest water user inside your home. New high-efficiency toilet models flush at 1.3 gallons or less compared to older models, which use up to 7 gallons per flush. Bay Area water agencies offer cash rebates for the purchase of select high-efficiency toilets.
  10. Replace your clothes washer, the second largest water user in your home, with a high efficiency clothes washer to reduce water and energy use by 40%. Bay Area water agencies offer cash rebates for the purchase of select high-efficiency clothes washers. 
  11. Reduce outdoor watering needs by planting drought-resistant species appropriate for the Bay Area’s dry climate. Water deeply but less frequently and use mulch around plants.

***  We provide free faucet aerators, water-efficient showerheads and Water-Wise gardening guidebooks to San Francisco residents. Pick up in person with proof of address at 525 Golden Gate Avenue, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Many other Bay Area water utilities provide a number of efficient conservation plumbing fixtures for free. 

Schedule a free Water-Wise evaluation by one of our conservation technicians by calling (415) 551-4730. For more information visit

About the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System

The Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System, operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, provides water to 2.6 million residents in four Bay Area counties. Two thirds of this water is provided to wholesale customers serving communities in Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, with the remaining one third serving the residents and businesses of San Francisco. The Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) represents our 1.7 million wholesale customers.

Our regional water system relies on snowfall and rainfall collected in the Hetch Hetchy, San Mateo Creek, and Alameda Creek watersheds. The Sierra snowpack is particularly critical to our water supply as snow serves as an additional water storage mechanism during the winter months, providing snowmelt water as the weather warms.

Current Water System Status

As a regional water provider, we carefully monitor precipitation conditions throughout the water year (Oct 1- Sept 30), particularly during the winter months when the majority of precipitation occurs and the mountain snowpack accumulates.

Historically, more than 63% of our annual precipitation and snowfall has occurred in the months of January through May.

Current System Storage and Precipitation information for the system can be found here:

Previous Water Reduction Requests

We last issued a 10% voluntary reduction request to our retail customers in April 2007. Dry-winter conditions continued in 2008 and the request remained in place until 2009.

At the time, 2007 was one of the driest winters on record, setting the stage for reduced water storage levels and possible first year drought conditions.  The call for voluntary cutbacks effectively reduced overall water consumption by 12%, exceeding the goal and avoiding mandatory rationing.

Low Residential Water Use in San Francisco

San Francisco’s gross water use is about 88 gallons per capita per day (gpcd),  less than one half the statewide average of 197 gpcd. Gross per capita reflects total water deliveries by a water agency (as measured by service area meters) divided by total population and includes residential, commercial, industrial and other water uses.

San Francisco's residential water use is about 50 gpcd. Residential per capita is the total water sales (measured by residential meters) divided by total population. Gallons per capita per day tells us the number of gallons of water used per person per day. Climate, land use, population density and other factors can cause significant variation in gpcd among regions.

Even though San Francisco has low per capita water usage, the SFPUC continues to aggressively pursue water conservation as the best means to protect our vital water supply. Through active conservation and plumbing code requirements, we forecast the potential to reduce water demands by 14 million gallons per day (mgd) by 2018 and 23 mgd by 2035.   

 Drought Planning 

With 2.6 million customers relying on the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System, we carefully manage our water supply; plan for its future availability, and develop alternative water supplies to supplement and serve our regional water needs.

We plan water deliveries anticipating that a drought more severe than the worst drought ever experienced may occur. For example, the 1987-92 drought defines the most extreme recorded drought for regional system water deliveries, and establishes the basis for our ‘Design Drought’. This particular drought covered a 6½-year period from July 1986 (when the SFPUC reservoirs were full) to November/December 1992 (when the SFPUC reservoirs reached minimum storage).

All of our supply decisions and water reduction scenarios take into account water supply planning over multiple years and in consideration of our worst drought.

More information is outlined in our most current UWMP for the City and County of San Francisco found at:

Water Supply Diversification and Conservation Efforts

As an essential element of our water supply and drought planning efforts, we are diversifying our local water supplies by advancing groundwater, recycled water, non-potable water projects that maximize our supplies while putting all available water to its best use.

For more details please see our Water Resources Fiscal Year 2012 – 2013 Annual Report. 

Urban Water Management Plan 

The 1983 California Urban Water Management Planning Act requires all urban water suppliers to prepare an Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) every 5 years. As a State-mandated report, UWMPs provide valuable comparison data for water use across the State of California.

In 2009, the CA Water Conservation Bill mandated a reduction of statewide per capita water use by 20 percent by 2020.

The most current UWMP for the City and County of San Francisco can be found at:


Last updated: 3/7/2014 1:08:44 PM