SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — It all started with a 2002 state law demanding quake-resilient water delivery. Nearly $5 billion later, San Francisco has retrofit the system from Hetch Hetchy to the city, just now crossing the finish line on the shore of Lake Merced.

“We take water from elevation here of approximately 30 feet, and we boost it to an elevation of 385 feet for Sunset Reservoir and 495.5 feet for Twin Peaks Reservoir,” said Brahman Conci, Operations Superintendent at the Lake Merced Pump Station.

Seventy million gallons a day can move through these pumps. And now, the station that houses them feels more like a bunker, complete with a high-pressure, epoxy grout injection foundation.

Lake Merced Pump Station in San Francisco following an earthquake retrofit project. (CBS)

Lake Merced Pump Station in San Francisco following an earthquake retrofit project. (CBS)

“So this facility was rebuilt,” Conci explained. “And was seismically hardened.

“And then the facilities themselves are generally designed to withstand about a 7.0 magnitude earthquake,” Conci went on to say.

And for everything, there is redundancy, from the pumps to the power, with two 2-megawatt generators that are used to operate the pumps when we lose utility power. The facility can also manage all of the city’s water systems including the high-pressure tanks used during major fires like the one by Van Ness back in July.

“We used our Jones Street tank, and we went up to our Ashberry Street tank, and now we’re flowing water all the way from Twin Peaks, all the way down here,” SFFD Deputy Chief of Operations Victor Wyrsch said about that day, describing the reliance on the city’s emergency system.

If absolutely necessary, the pump station itself can become a redundancy for firefighters, with the ability to pull from the 2.2 billion gallons of water in Lake Merced.

“We would start one of these pumps, and allow us to pump that lake water to either Sunset reservoir or Sutro Reservoir for fire suppression,” Conci said of the emergency scenario. “In the event we did that, that is a non-potable source that you’ve now put into a potable source so it will change the potability. We would have to issue a boil water order.”

Conci described it as “the nuclear option.”

As for the reservoirs, they have been rebuilt as well over the past 20 years. The city says its water system is now ready for whatever is coming.

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