Carl Boronkay - a "water buffalo" who loved Yosemite


"The ultimate removal of the reservoir would make possible the restoration of Valley a few miles from Yosemite Valley and, amazingly, a near twin of that extraordinary gift of nature." 

Carl Boronkay  - former General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

I am sorry to report that Carl Boronkay, longtime member of Restore Hetch Hetchy's Advisory Board, passed away last July. He was 87. 


Carl Boronkay

Carl was not just any restoration supporter or Advisory Board member. He was a "water buffalo" - the friendly but telling moniker assigned to power brokers within California's largest water agencies. His support, like that of fellow water buffalo Tom Clark, has meant a lot to us. After all, who could better validate our claim that Hetch Hetchy can be restored without losing a drop of water than a former General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California - the largest supplier of treated water in the Unites States?

Carl was initially entranced by Yosemite as a young man when he spent a summer working on a trail crew in the park. The experience stayed with him all his life - his eyes sparkling whenever he talked about it. 

After serving in the army, Carl went to law school and and spent most of his career working for public water agencies. In 1984, he was named General Manager of Metropolitan - a post he held for 10 years. Under Carl's leadership, Metropolitan changed and other urban water agencies followed.

First and foremost, Carl recognized the need for southern California to decrease its reliance on imported water supplies from the Colorado River and the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. Also, under Boronkay, Metropolitan provided important political support for the Central Valley Project Improvement Act - legislation designed to restore fisheries and waterfowl habitat while providing economic incentives for farmers to use water as productively as possible. 

For more about Carl's legacy as a water leader, see Carl Boronkay: A Giant Passes in California Water posted by Tim Quinn, Executive Director of the Association of California Water Agencies. Quinn's tribute to his mentor is very nicely done, but he somehow omitted Boronkay's support of restoring Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy. Perhaps he didn't think it was important, or perhaps he didn't want his members to know that Carl thought Yosemite National Park was a poor place for a reservoir. 


Metropolitan serves cities throughout urban southern California, delivering 1.5 billion gallons of water each day - about seven times the amount of water that San Francisco serves. 

I worked closely with Carl in 2012 when I asked him to write an editorial opinion supporting Restore Hetch Hetchy's measure on the San Francisco ballot (the ballot measure failed). He was happy to do so, but he didn't have a computer or typewriter and his handwriting was illegible. So he would dictate to me, and I would email a draft to his son-in-law, who would print it and take it to Carl. We repeated the process several times until Carl was satisfied with the product. Even though Carl was already in poor health, he was adamant that the column read exactly as he wanted. I got a sense of what it would have been like to work for him at Metropolitan. See what you think - you can read it here.

All of Restore Hetch Hetchy's supporters are special indeed. Convincing the courts and decision-makers that San Francisco's water system will be just fine without Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is essential, however, so it is especially important to have supporters like Carl on board.

We will miss him.


Save the date - March 17, 2018 - for our annual dinner at the Berkeley City Club. What could be a greener way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day?