Press Release

Photography Exhibition of the Building of the Hetch Hetchy Water System Goes on Display at San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 3


Jane Sullivan
Manager Marketing and Communications
(650) 821-5152
CONTACT: Beverly Hennessey
Communications Manager, SFPUC
(415) 554-1830



Photography Exhibition of the Building of the Hetch Hetchy Water System Goes on Display at San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 3


SAN FRANCISCO -- “The Making of the Hetch Hetchy: Twenty Years of Labor, Leadership and Sacrifice,” an exhibition of 36 poster-size historical photographs depicting the building of the water system that today serves 2.4 million people in the Bay Area, is currently on display in Terminal 3 at San Francisco International Airport. The black and white photographs illustrate the 20 years of leadership, grueling labor and sacrifice that went into creating a complex water system comprised of tunnels, pipelines, dams, powerhouses and reservoirs.


The Hetch Hetchy System, dubbed by many as an engineering marvel, carries 256 million gallons of potable water every day 167 miles by gravity from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Bay Area. The photographic images included in the exhibition trace the Hetch Hetchy Project’s development - from the building of the Hetch Hetchy Railroad, constructed solely for the purpose of moving supplies and workers that were needed to build the system; to the final dedication at the scenic Pulgas Water Temple, the aqueduct’s terminus. They show the workers, too - pouring concrete under nighttime illumination at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, manning the trains on steep terrain, constructing the powerhouses that today generate green power, installing the large machinery inside, and laying the first transbay pipeline under the Newark Slough on the bay’s east side.


The photographs on display have been selected from the SFPUC’s archives and have never been exhibited. This exhibition, presented by the San Francisco Airport Museums, kicks off events leading up to the American Water Works Association Conference that will be held in San Francisco from June 12 through 17, 2005. More than 10,000 visitors from all over the world will attend this major water conference and exposition.


“The Making of the Hetch Hetchy: Twenty Years of Labor, Leadership and Sacrifice” is located post-security in Boarding Area F, and open only to passengers ticketed through Terminal 3 (Boarding Areas E and F, Gates 60-90). The exhibition is on view through May 2005, 24 hours a day, free of charge.


Today the Hetch Hetchy system is undergoing a $4.3 billion seismic reliability upgrade to ensure the delivery of the water supply in the event of a major earthquake. The Hetch Hetchy Water System is operated and maintained by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). The Commission also supplies water to the Modesto/Turlock Irrigation Districts and generates clean hydro power to supply municipal services to San Francisco including SFO and Muni. The SFPUC also oversees and maintains the wastewater operations for the City.


“Today we enjoy some of the nation’s highest quality drinking water because of the foresight and commitment of Michael O’Shaughnessy and the thousands who built the Hetch Hetchy water system,” said Susan Leal, General Manager of the SFPUC. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to tell the fascinating story of Hetch Hetchy as part of the prestigious exhibitions program at the Airport. When you see these amazing photographs of our system being built, you develop an even deeper understanding and appreciation of the most important resource we have - water.”


To view photos from the exhibit online, visit


San Francisco Airport Museums

The San Francisco Airport Museums program was established by the Airport Commission in 1980 for the purposes of humanizing the Airport environment, providing visibility for the unique cultural life of San Francisco, and providing educational services for the traveling public. Today, the San Francisco Airport Museums features approximately twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation. For more information on the San Francisco Airport Museums program, please visit


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About San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport SFO ( connects non-stop with more than 60 cities in the United States on 20 domestic airlines, including more than twice as many non-stop flights to the New York area than other Bay Area airports combined. In addition, SFO offers non-stop links with more than 30 international points on 25 international carriers, making SFO the Bay Area’s Airport of Choice.