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San Francisco's Water Story

What connects wildfires, mercury pollution, and dry meadows in the Sierra with San Francisco? Your water!

The 2013 Rim Fire damaged portions of the forest that provide a large percentage of San Francisco's water and power. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and the streams that feed it escaped the more destructive high intensity burn, but San Francisco did not come out of the largest fire in Sierra Nevada history unscathed.

The interactive map below will take you on a journey from your tap to the mountains that are the source of your water, and will introduce you to the major challenges that need to be addressed today if you are to continue to rely on this water and power source in the future.

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A printable version of the Tuolumne River Watershed and the system that connects it with San Francisco is available here.

As you deal with policy and funding decisions, keep in mind that investing in your watershed is critically important. For the last 10 years, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and our partners have been working hard to protect your water supply, but there is still so much to do.

More than 60% of California's developed water supply comes from the forests of the Sierra Nevada where:

  • Megafires like the Rim Fire are becoming more common
  • Historic mining sites bleed toxic substances in to the rivers
  • And meadows that act as sponges for snow and rain are drying up
  • Individually, each of these conditions disrupt the natural system that is the source of California's water, but combined they result in challenges to our water supply that even the best local conservation practices cannot resolve.

    To learn more about the work that the Sierra Nevada Conservancy has done to protect the water supply for all California families, visit Investing in California’s Watershed. To explore the connections between other communities and their Sierra water source visit the Sierra Nevada Watersheds Map.

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