San Francisco Strengthens Water Pipelines Against Earthquake Vulnerabilities


With a D+ cumulative grade for our nation’s infrastructure and the federal Highway Trust Funding heading toward a fiscal cliff in May 2015, the great infrastructure innovations happening around the country are often overlooked. The recently updated 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure highlights 20 new successful projects and initiatives that each improve our nation’s dams, bridges, roads,  drinking water delivery system and other infrastructure.

One such groundbreaking project is the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Water Safety Improvement Program.

While utilities nationwide are grappling with aging infrastructure, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is making prudent and sustainable investments in their regional water system. For nearly a century, the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System has been providing 2.6 million residents and businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area with reliable, high-quality drinking water. Not only is the system past its useful life, but major pipelines cross over three of the nation’s most active fault lines, making the system vulnerable to interruption in the event of an earthquake. For the SFPUC, rebuilding the water system was a race against time.

The Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) launched in 2004 to make the water system more reliable and seismically safe. The $5 billion capital program is one of the largest infrastructure programs in the country, consisting of more than 80 projects in seven California counties.

With the WSIP over 80% complete, the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System is already significantly more redundant and seismically reliable due to the miles of new pipelines and critical tunnels installed to ensure water delivery within 24 hours of an earthquake.

The WSIP also includes the Tesla Treatment Facility, which uses ultraviolet-light arrays to disinfect and treat water and is the largest ultraviolet treatment plant in California, as well as the five-mile long Bay Tunnel, which will be the very first tunnel under the San Francisco Bay. Through the WSIP, the SFPUC has invested $300 million in habitat restoration and watershed protection.

The WSIP has been nationally recognized as an award-winning program, receiving 26 honors from the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Public Works Association, and others. With this program, the SFPUC has been able to improve system redundancy and service delivery for future generations.

Check out the other infrastructure success story case studies by downloading the tablet app for your Android device or iPad. The update also includes the latest state data and updated videos, charts and graphs.


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