Sunol Water Temple
Note: A talk on the Water Temple will be given on March 16 at
the Museum on Main.
Click here for details.
The Sunol Water Temple was designed by Willis Polk in 1910 and built by the Spring Valley Water Company. The waters from the area converge on this spot, drop 40 feet into a conduit and head for San Francisco through Niles Canyon and across the bay near the Dumbarton Bridge.
San Francisco bought the Spring Valley Water Company in 1930. The water temple and picnic area were accessible to the public until some years ago, when it fell into disrepair.
Recently the Water Temple underwent a complete restoration by San Francisco thanks to the efforts of people of Sunol, who formed a group called Save Our Sunol. The restoration occurred from 1997 to 2000, and is now complete. The temple is open for visitors from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday through Friday. The picnic area has not yet been rebuilt.
The Sunol Water Temple predates the Hetch Hetchy project. The Hetch Hetchy pipeline runs south of the water temple, going through Del Valle reservoir, through Sycamore Grove Park, and also through the San Antonio reservoir (which can be seen when looking south from Highway 84). The San Antonio reservoir is part of the Hetch Hetchy system (although not constructed until 1965) and is used as both a water source and temporary storage for that system. While the Hetch Hetchy pipeline runs through Del Valle, I don't believe it is part of that system (it is operated by the CA Dept of Water Resources, completed in 1968). The Sunol filtration plant filters water from the local sources and some water from Hetch Hetchy.
For more information:
Save Our Sunol. History, old pictures, restoration pictures.
San Francisco Water District. Contains a small diagram showing different designs for the temple. Also describes the building of the Sunol Valley Filtration plant.
Map of Spring Valley Water Company holdings from May of 1922 (UC Berkeley library). Interesting map. Del Valle and the San Antonio reservoir are listed as "proposed". The San Antonio reservoir was not completed until 1965 and Del Valle until 1968.
Inscription around the water temple:
"I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry lands springs of water.
The streams whereof shall make glad the city. S.V.W.C. MCMX"
S.V.W.C. is for Spring Valley Water Company.
MCMX is 1910.
The first line is from Isaiah 41:18b
The second line is from Psalm 46:4
All pictures taken on June 28, 2002.
North side of Water Temple
Artwork under the dome.
View underneath the dome showing the columns
Water drops in from the east side. On the left side smaller streams of water flows from the area in the next picture.
Another water inlet, with far less flow. The bottom of this picture connects to the left side of the above picture.
Picture taken from roughly the same place as the above picture, but looking straight across instead of down. The road leading to the water temple can be seen, as well as the field that is currently slated to become a quarry.
Water temple as seen from the road leading to it.
As seen from Paloma Road (connecting 680 to Sunol & Highyway 84). This field, owned by the city of San Francisco, is currently planned to be a quarry. This is being fought by Save Our Sunol.