Climate Change: A Not-So-Distant Threat to San Francisco

(Nineth in a series of stories supplementing the upcoming public television documentary)

Climate change poses an immediate and growing threat to the San Francisco Bay Area.  San Francisco’s water storage was built nearly 100 years ago, to accommodate the fresh water needs of a growing population.  Now the City faces an uncertain future, of threatening floods and droughts created by climate change.

Educators and experts, have long been studying the impacts climate change will have on San Francisco in the coming decades.  Their predications confirm San Francisco’s future will see longer droughts and heavier rainfalls.  Mapping of future weather patterns predict that rising sea and bay water levels will threaten to swallow up, shorelines, wetlands, and estuaries of the Bay Area. As the ground around San Francisco Bay continues to sink and flood waters continue to rise, the City is concerned an increase in flood damage and rainfall will stress its aging infrastructure.

By 2100, many bay-front communities in the San Francisco Bay Area will experience, disruptive flooding 26 times or more per year under current conditions.  San Mateo and Alameda could see 10 and 29 percent, respectively, of their land area flooding every other week, on average.

Some of San Francisco’s most rapidly developing neighborhoods, as well as, suburban communities such as Novato, Union City, and East Palo Alto would also see disruptive levels of flooding. (Map & Data: OpenStreetMap 2017; NOAA 2017; Union of Concerned Scientists [])

During the 1908 Earthquake and Fire, the old Spring Valley Water system that brought water to the City was destroyed and unusable at the City’s greatest time of need, prompting the call for a city-run water utility and the development of the Hetch Hetchy system.   Today, San Francisco faces future threats of earthquakes and fires; but also rising seas and sinking land caused by climate change that could reshape the topography of the Bay Area forever.  Future blog posts will explore what San Francisco and Bay Area cities are doing to prepare for climate change.

Coming Spring 2018
Water From The Wilderness: From Hetch Hetchy To San Francisco Bay
Produced by Jim Yager Media


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