In San Francisco, where does the water that flows out of our faucets come from?

About this Video

Grade level: 3rd-5th
Length: 4.5 minutes

Video Discussion Questions

  1. In what ways did the people in the video use water? What are some other ways you and your family use water in your daily lives?
  2. Besides rain, what other sources of water were mentioned in the video?
  3. Turn to a partner and discuss: Why do we get our water from so many different places in California?
  4. What are the challenges that California faces with finding a large enough water supply?
  5. What is the scientific name for a place where water is stored underground?
  6. What is one action you can take to do your part to help save water at home?
  7. What does it mean to “recycle water”? What are some examples of ways that places in San Francisco reuse water?
  8. How often is the water in San Francisco tested for public safety? In addition to testing drinking water, what other kinds of water are tested?
  • San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water System.
  • Groundwater Well.
  • Examples of impacts on Californias water supply.
  • Solar Panel Condensation.
  • Recycling Water in a Bathroom.
  • Examples of types of water tested to make it safe for use.
  • A visualization of the process of desalination to remove salt from ocean water to make tap water.
  • Two animated girls stand in front of a sink.

Key Concepts

  • In San Francisco, most of the water that flows out of our faucets comes from snow melting and flowing down from the Sierra Nevada mountain range [Big Ideas, page 11].
  • San Francisco's watershed includes a system of dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, storage facilities, and pipes that bring us clean drinking water [Big Ideas, page 35].
  • We can save water through practices like turning off the faucet when not in use and checking for leaks [Big Ideas, page 45].
  • If we use too much water, there will not be enough for all of us and the natural world.
  • Our water is tested at every step by a lot of people who care and have expertise to make sure it’s safe.

Background for Educators

With 2.7 million customers relying on our regional water system, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is working to conserve our drinking water supply and develop alternative water supplies to serve our needs.

Groundwater is a renewable source of naturally occurring water that is found beneath the ground surface. As rain or snow seeps into the ground, it passes between soil particles and collects in underground reservoirs called aquifers. An aquifer is made up of sand, silt, or other permeable materials that can readily yield water to springs or wells. Groundwater is an essential part of the state and nationwide water supply. In fact, 80% of Californians depend on groundwater for all or part of their drinking water supply, and have been doing so safely for generations.

Recycled water is highly-treated wastewater that has undergone multiple levels of treatment to meet strict quality and safety standards; treatment typically consists of filtration to remove suspended solids, some bacteria, and other pollutants. Disinfection then destroys any remaining bacteria and viruses. Recycled water is safe and suitable for a variety of non-drinking uses, including: irrigation of parks and other landscaped areas; flushing toilets or urinals; filling decorative fountains; and cleaning streets.


Did You Notice?

Hetch Hetchy Dam

Here is the Hetch Hetchy Dam. Can you find it on a map?

Water flows downhill, creating electricity for the Bay Area.

Can you explain how this pipeline helps create electricity for the Bay Area?

Solar Power Condenation.

Solar panels can create water while producing electricity!

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The Institute is generously supported by an anonymous donor, the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

SFPUC logo: water, power, sewer