The Not-So-Crystal Clean History of San Francisco's Drinking Water

9 min
The Crystal Springs reservoirs helped quench the thirst of booming San Francisco during the Gold Rush. (Phil King/Flickr)

Tens of thousands of people flooded into San Francisco in the 1850s looking for gold, but there wasn't nearly enough drinking water to quench the thirst of the boomtown. So speculators looked south of the city to San Mateo County in hopes of delivering clean water to San Francisco and big money to their own pockets. And they weren't going to let anything get in their way. On this episode of Bay Curious, how a few men changed the law and got rich by creating San Mateo County's Crystal Springs reservoirs.

Who lives in the homes on Upper Crystal Springs Reservoirs? And why isn't more of the watershed open to the public? Find those answers and more here.

Want to learn more about how San Francisco's present-day drinking water gets all the way from Yosemite to your tap? Check out our earlier story: Hetch Hetchy Water’s Epic Journey, From Mountains to Tap.

This story was reported by Rachael Myrow. Bay Curious is made by Olivia Allen-Price, Jessica Placzek, Katie McMurran, Suzie Racho, Paul Lancour and Ryan Levi. Additional support from Julie Caine, Vinnee Tong, Ethan Lindsey, Carly Severn, Patricia Yollin, Holly Kernan and David Weir.

Theme music by Pat Mesiti-Miller.


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Follow Olivia Allen-Price on Twitter @oallenprice.