Project: Water system improvements

Jurisdiction: San Francisco Regional Water System

Agency: San Francisco Public Utility Commission

Vendor: Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Trimble, others

Scheduled for Completion: 2014

Estimated cost: $4.3 billion

Built in the early 20th century, the San Francisco water system is near three major earthquake faults. Recognizing the risk of earthquake damage, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission launched a $4.3 billion project to repair, replace and seismically upgrade the system's deteriorating pipelines, tunnels, reservoirs, pump stations, storage tanks and dams.

Six years after voters approved a bond measure to fund the initiative, the Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) has identified 85 projects, with completion targeted by the end of 2014. As of Oct. 4, 2008, 23 WSIP projects had been completed. With the recent approval of environmental reviews, another 17 projects totaling $1.8 billion now can proceed.

The San Francisco Regional Water System serves more than 2.5 million customers in four counties. Some districts have begun raising rates, which are anticipated to remain at or below the state median after the project is completed.

A key focus of the project is to ensure water availability after a major earthquake, which, from any of the faults, would likely cut off most customers from water service for at least 30 days. One of the primary goals of the WSIP is to deliver water to 70 percent of customers within 24 hours of a major earthquake.

Read the main story, "At the breaking point," to learn more aboout the sorry state of the country's water infrastructure and what it means if we don't fix it.