Water World — San Francisco Style

Believe it or not, San Francisco is flooded with underground sources of fresh, drinkable water. Much of it, however, is flushed away — literally.

By Joe Eskenazi

“Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” – Mark Twain (probably)

Former San Franciscan Samuel Langhorne Clemens would be so disappointed with us. Here we are in the 21st century and we’ve yet to discover, here or anywhere, an underground supply of whiskey. And today, in 2007, the city’s vast subterranean reserves of water are, rather than being hotly fought over, either untapped or plugged directly into the sewer and pumped out to the Bay.

Sifting through arcane files in the San Public Library archives, writer Joel Pomerantz came across a recent letter of complaint from the sewer administrators to BART, imploring the rapid transit agency to pay its fair share.

“It turns out the area under Market Street has a lot of water flowing through it and the BART stations are threatened to be flooded all the time without pumping. The complaint said BART was pumping into the sewers without paying. Well, it turns out that’s potable water. It doesn’t even require treatment,” said Pomerantz at a recent panel discussion about the world of city water hosted by counterPULSE.


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