San Francisco built Pulgas Water Temple as a monument to the engineering marvel that brought Hetch Hetchy water more than 160 miles across California from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Bay Area. The Hetch Hetchy Project took 24 years to build through the Great Depression at a cost of $102 million.
On October 28, 1934, the roar of Hetch Hetchy mountain water greeted everyone gathered at Pulgas Water Temple to celebrate its arrival. With vivid memories of the fire that had raged unchecked after the Great Earthquake of 1906, the city rejoiced in its new secure, plentiful supply of high quality drinking water. The frieze above the columns expresses the city’s joyful relief: “I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people.”
Pulgas Water Temple was designed in the Beaux Arts style by William Merchant, a San Francisco architect trained by Bernard Maybeck. Merchant’s design featured fluted columns and Corinthian capitals to reflect the architecture of ancient Greeks and Romans, whose engineering methods were used to build the new water system. Artist and master stone carver Albert Bernasconi brought Merchant’s drawings to life.
Enjoying the Site
Pulgas Water Temple is located about one-half mile south of the Cañada Road trailhead. To get there, take Interstate 280 to the Edgewood Road exit. Proceed west on Edgewood Road to Cañada Road, then north on Cañada Road approximately two miles to the temple.
The Pulgas Water Temple is a stone structure west of I-280 at 80 Cañada Road, Redwood City, California, USA, designed by architect William G. Merchant. It was erected by the San Francisco Water Department to commemorate the 1934 completion of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct and is located at the aqueduct’s terminus. In 1938, the original water temple was replaced with the current design.
San Francisco and surrounding communities get water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir approximately 160 miles away via the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct. Water once made the journey to the Pulgas Water Temple and flowed over a small C-shaped waterfall within the water temple itself where it continued approximately 800 feet down a canal to the west into Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir. Starting in 2004, water no longer flows through the temple, but instead is diverted to a nearby treatment plant where chloramine added at the Sunol treatment plant is removed. The retreated water then either enters the drinking water system after being chloraminated yet again at another plant or is stored as surplus inUpper Crystal Springs Reservoir.
Pulgas Water Temple and its parking lot are open to the public on weekdays, Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
The parking lot is closed on weekends, except for permitted events. To obtain a permit for your wedding or group event, call us at 650-872-5900.