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City of San Francisco Infrastructure

by Alice
be prepared for earthquake or depression

This is what I spent a few hours writing for the San Francisco Peak
Oil Task Force before they had a meeting on the infrastructure chapter
-- it's just what I scrabbled together off the top of my head the day
of the meeting, and does not reflect the immense amount of research
I've done on infrastructure over the years.

The infrastructure posts hit a raw nerve in me. We can cope with a lot
of hardship, but social disorder is far more likely if the
infrastructure fails. People will die -- clean water and food account
for 90% of our lifespan over age 50, not medicine.


City of San Francisco Infrastructure By Alice Friedemann, July 15, 2008

Since there are no alternative energy sources, except for fusion,
which could possibly replace fossil fuels (Hoffert, Hayden), and there
aren't any alternative energy sources that can replace fossil fuels in
the window of time left, the city of San Francisco needs to prioritize
how their budget is spent on coping with the energy crisis.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ACSE) gave grades of D- to
drinking water, D- to wastewater, and C+ to solid waste, so clearly,
even without an energy crisis, these essential services need more
attention and funding. And since these services are ninety percent of
the reason we live past age fifty (Garrett), clearly they should
receive a large portion of whatever funding is available.

The lifetime of some components of the clean water infrastructure last
for only 15 years, and at most 100 years. Pumping stations, force and
trunk mains wear out. In this century, all of the 600,000 miles of
pipes delivering clean water to homes will need to be replaced. Every
component of the water system is aging. The energy required to
replace or maintain thousands of treatment plants, pumping stations,
reservoirs and dams over the next century is staggering (EPA).

City departments that provide these essential, life supporting
services should be replacing the oldest water lines, sewer pipes, and
other aging infrastructure as soon as possible.

In addition, they should be buying and stockpiling duplicate and even
triplicate spare parts, pipes, and other components in anticipation of
their unavailability in the future due to:
" Dollar weakness from the inflation of war and increasingly higher
energy prices, and continuing bailouts of financial institutions as
the unwinding of debt, the subprime crisis, derivatives, and other
highly leveraged financial instruments continues. " If there's a
global depression, the companies that make fundamental components of
water treatment systems may go out of business. " Supply chains may
break down in countries having power crises, natural disasters, social
disorder, etc

Energy Efficiency at Water Treatment Facilities The state of
California has a website dedicated to using less energy to deliver
water and treat wastewater with many useful recommendations:

Water Conservation Conservation of water by citizens and businesses
will be important not only to stress water systems less, but due the
possibility of a long-term drought. City staff can educate everyone
on how to cut back by teaching people how to read their water meter,
check for leaks, calculate how much water they're using, water
conservation strategies, irrigation information, etc.

Underground Facilities Although San Francisco has built hundreds of
cisterns underground, in a future of climate change and intermittent
power, earthquakes, and fires, the need for water will grow in
importance. Emergency water supplies for fruit and nut trees and
community gardens during a drought would be especially useful.

Underground storage should be built to house people during an
earthquake, since underground spaces are less vulnerable to
earthquakes, and stay roughly the same temperature, so they don't need
to be heated or cooled. The Moscone center will certainly be useful
should such a situation arise, but can't house the entire population
of the city as well as being the center of operations for City Hall.

These underground facilities can also be used to store durable food,
so that if grocery stores are unable to keep their shelves stocked, at
least there will be alternative food available. This was historically
always the role cities played.

In 2004, I asked the state office of emergency services if the state
or cities had food, fuel, blankets, and so on to provide to citizens
in natural disasters, and Kathleen Bailey, Program Manager of the OES
Coastal Region replied: "It would be prohibitively expensive and
impractical for cities to provide sufficient supplies for an entire
populace. Absent a commitment by the voters to pay for the purchase
and warehousing of supplies and the creation of a bureaucracy to
oversee the unending project, the cities do not have the funds or
authority to assume such a role."

But to prevent social disorder, it would be wise for the city of San
Francisco to anticipate the need to stockpile food for its residents.
Or they can try to get grocery stores to take on this role, as
happened recently in Britain (Oakeshott).

Fire Department Since the city of San Francisco already depends on
tourism for a great deal of its revenue, and will need tourism even
more in the future, preventing the city from burning down is
paramount. Even more underground cisterns for firefighting and
emergency supplies will help to fight fires when the power is out from
energy shortages and natural disasters.

People will be tempted to try to cook food over fires in their
fireplaces during energy outages, so it's essential that this be
illegal. If community centers are set up, perhaps at existing local
schools which already have cooking facilities, the temptation to do
this will be less, and far less energy per person will be used if food
is cooked communally.

Police Department Community centers will also get people out of their
cold, dark apartments into warm, lit, public places. The city of San
Francisco should encourage a "café society" through tax and other city
policies to get people out of their homes to maximize energy use.
Electricity can then be channeled to street lighting, internet cafes,
movie theaters, community centers, restaurants, and so on rather than
homes to make use of limited energy better. The more people out on the
streets, the less crime there will be. This will deter gangs from
taking over dark and empty streets.

Recycling San Francisco needs to get as close to "zero waste" as
possible. Japan requires manufacturers to take back their air
conditioners, televisions, washing machines, and refrigerators. San
Francisco might consider copying some of the Japanese cities which
have over 40 kinds of recycling categories.

Since food and the packaging it comes in comprise a hefty chunk of
what enters the landfill, grocery stores should be encouraged to sell
food from bulk supplies in re-usable containers, and to tax packaged
items. This will also help to mitigate food supply crises and vastly
improve the health of San Francisco residents.

Incineration of solid waste is wasteful and hard to do safely because
of the toxic fumes released from plastics and other materials.
Resources that could have been used are burned unnecessarily, and very
little electricity can be generated. Often the products burned would
be worth far more recycled than as a fuel (Odum 218).

Once reusable items, concentrated materials, and toxic waste is
removed, what's left over can be shredded and dispersed in forests.
This was done in Florida and it increased the growth of trees because
it restores the soil. The content of "green" waste should be
composted locally rather than hauled far away and chipped or dumped as
a layer in landfills. (Odum 218)

Reward people for their efforts. Samsam Bakhtiari, a peak oil expert
who used to work at the National Iranian Oil Company and Oil Depletion
Analysis Centre, urges the use of market incentives to reward people
for reducing, reusing, or recycling.

Transportation fuel for essential vehicles Biodiesel is not
sustainable, takes more energy to make than is received from it,
ecologically destructive, has a short shelf life, and impure or
decayed biodiesel can shorten engine life - not a good idea at a time
when new engines and replacement parts are likely to be difficult to
come by (Friedemann).

California still produces 40% of its own oil, and Alaskan and other
oil are likely to be available for a while. When rationing begins,
essential city departments will receive what they need before the
remaining oil is sold to the public.

Streets & sidewalks Enforce truck weight codes vigorously because
overweight trucks are one of the main causes of the need to repair roads.

Remove or perforate as many streets and sidewalks as possible to allow
water infiltration to assist the growth of fruit trees, community
gardens, and runoff (Odum, p215).

Don't allow buildings on existing green spaces and parking lots Some
groups believe that building density into cities reduces commuting and
urban sprawl. But infilling is not appropriate at a time when
decentralization is required, and will diminish San Francisco
residents access to open, green space - very much needed not only for
local gardens to reduce the energy to transport food, but for much
needed stress reduction and enjoyment as the ability to travel to
natural areas lessens (odum 216).

Floating Piers Because of the risk of rising sea levels, build a few,
very long piers that rise and fall with the tide for future sailing
vessels, sloops, and barges. Containerization will continue for a
while, since container ships use bunker fuel (the worst, dirtiest,
gunkiest stuff) and despite their large size, are efficient given the
overall amount of cargo moved, but San Francisco should anticipate the
end of containerization and leap-frog the Port of Oakland.

Long Term

Although Hetch Hetchy will continue to provide electricity for years
to come, all dams are eventually rendered useless by sediment. If
there is a long-term drought cycle beginning, the normal climate in
California (the last century was one of the wettest in millennia),
then electricity outages are likely to occur when natural gas plants
can't make up for the lack of water at Hetch Hetchy.

Any steps that can be taken now, while energy is still abundant and
cheap, should be taken to make the water treatment and sewage systems
as functional as possible without any power at all, such as more use
of gravity, (artificial) wetlands, fish ponds, forests, non-food
farms, fertilizer, and other methods from before fossil fuels (odum
218, 227, 228).


ACSE American Society of Civil Engineers Report Card for America's
Infrastructure. 2005.

EPA. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water .
2002. The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis.
(4606M) EPA-816-R-02-020

Friedemann, A. 2007. "Peak Soil: Why Cellulosic and other Biofuels are
Not Sustainable and a Threat to America's National Security".

Garrett, L. 2001. Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public
Health. Hyperion

Hayden, H. 2005. The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Won't Run the
World.. Vales Lake Publishing.

Hoffert, M.,et al. November 1, 2002. Advanced Technology Paths to
Global Climate Stability: Energy for a Greenhouse Planet. Science,
298: 981-987

Oakeshott, J. July 6, 2008 Government asks stores to stockpile food to
overcome hauliers strike.

Odum, H.T. 2001. "A Prosperous Way Down. Principles and Policies.
University Press of Colorado.
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