Wading in Water History: San Francisco, Drought, and Hetch Hetchy


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SAN FRANCISCO– The reality of the California drought is a stark contrast from the lush upper Midwest. While one chooses between ground or surface sources for municipal water and need not stop to think about lush green grass underfoot, the other dons signs along the road reading “pray for rain”. While Minnesota and Wisconsin thrive in a culture of river and lake recreation, California has a website for the drought, featuring Lady Gaga chiming in to get the attention of the masses. Not only are the communities of the Bay area strained by the drought, but a key fertile agricultural land in our national economy is strained, too. Wine, fruit, and especially almonds from Northern California make their way around the country and the world. While the region had built an infrastructure to cope with such water scarcities, the current drought has the reservoirs at record lows. The drought reaches beyond the capabilities infrastructure and now calls on personal water use. Reflecting on our history in water resources, are we really ready for such a responsibility?

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A Water-friendly… Mall?

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MAPLEWOOD, MN– In a project that’s the first of its kind, Maplewood Mall has retrofitted its parking lot with top-knotch stomwater infrastructure. Although construction projects and improvements on infrastructure are common every construction season, this one holds special significance. Here in Maplewood, the local watershed district, Ramsey-Washington Watershed, and Simon Property Group (Simon Malls) formed a unique partnership. Through what may seem like vastly different spheres of society, the watershed district and Simon Malls, one of the largest land owners in the US, planned and implemented a groundbreaking parking lot innovation. Concerning far more than parking spaces, the new parking lot is designed for stormwater runoff, to keep water where it lands instead of it running off the concrete jungle’s paved surfaces to pick up all sorts of trash and pollution (everything that drips and falls out of cars, accidentally or intentionally). The end result is that the Mississippi River receives water from this area not from the surges of stormwater pipes, but from gradual, stable, and clean groundwater flow. So how did they do it?

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