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Restoration Programs for Lake Merced

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John Martin, City Manager
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Programs To Protect Aquifer, Provide Recycled Water To Golf Courses

Daly City – Daly City and San Francisco have approved the key terms to future agreements intended to restore declining Lake Merced, protect its underlying aquifer and provide recycled water to adjacent golf courses.

A press conference will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, October 25, in San Francisco City Hall - Room 301. San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown will join Daly City Councilmember and former mayor Adrienne Tissier, along with San Francisco Supervisor Tony Hall, to announce the historical partnership. The Olympic Club, San Francisco Golf and Country Club, and Lake Merced Golf and Country Club, as well as the California Trout, a non-profit environmental organization, will also be represented.

The City Council of Daly City and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission ratified the framework of the agreements reflecting the three-part program.

"The agreement will mutually benefit our communities," Councilmember Tissier stated. "It took awhile to get all affected parties at one table, sharing similar ideas and agreeing on the same goals, but the result is something we can be proud of. Because of this partnership, future generations will be able to continue to enjoy Lake Merced."

The multi-agency collaboration consists of a three-part program, which includes channeling cleaned rainwater back into Lake Merced from its historic southern watershed. A pilot program is expected to begin this rainy season.

The second component involves Daly City's treatment facility located on Lake Merced Blvd. and John Daly Blvd. The facility, which serves customers in Daly City, Broadmoor, Colma and South San Francisco, is currently designing a $4 million recycled water facility to irrigate three adjacent golf courses: the Olympic Club, San Francisco Golf and Country Club, and Lake Merced Golf and Country Club, with tertiary treated water. Recycled water would replace the current practice of irrigating over 700 acres of fairways and greens with wells drawing from the Westside Basin Aquifer, an underground reservoir that also serves a portion of the municipal drinking water for the cities of San Bruno, Colma, South San Francisco and Daly City. In addition to reducing well pumping, the recycled water would itself percolate back into the underlying aquifer. To date, Daly City has spent over $2 million to study, design, and test recycled water facilities and construct conveyance pipelines.

The third component is generally described as a "conjunctive use" program. During unusually wet years, Daly City would limit its pumping from the aquifer, purchasing instead the available surplus water from the SFPUC's Hetch Hetchy system, allowing the double benefit of increased rainfall and reduced use to recharge the Westside Basin Aquifer. During dry years, Daly City would return to its local pumping, freeing the limited Hetch Hetchy water to provide for other regional water customers without reasonable supply alternatives. Over time, the "conjunctive use" program would consistently and gradually enhance the Westside Basin Aquifer as a sustainable resource.

Last April, Daly City was one of 64 agencies in the state to apply for a grant under AB 303, which provides financial support for addressing groundwater issues. The $250,000 it subsequently received was one of only 24 grants awarded in California. The grant will allow the construction of two or more monitoring wells to ensure against unanticipated salt-water intrusion into the valuable aquifer.

"Much has been accomplished by the coalition, but more is yet to be done," noted Councilmember Tissier. "The challenges are certainly ahead of us. With collaboration and mutual respect, we can protect the Westside Basin Aquifer, we will manage surface water with the groundwater, and we will work to increase the water level in Lake Merced."