San Francisco Branch Meeting: "How San Francisco's Water History Created a City Against All Odds"

GRA San Francisco Branch and Association of Engineering Geologists 

Proudly Present:

Speaker: Joel Pomerantz, Author "Seep City - San Francisco Water History Atlas"


Water emerges from local springs throughout San Francisco, including in church courtyards, public spaces and in hidden concrete channels under thousands of private homes. Joel’s Seep City project has been tracking and mapping local natural water, but it turns out that a full understanding of water and its effect on our history is impossible. Why?
Early descriptions of San Francisco were filled with wonder, each person comparing to conditions they had observed in the lands they had just fled, or those they had experienced harrowingly on their way here. Reports before the Gold Rush era tended toward single examples and generalities, never a careful rundown of the land and water features.

The Seep City project uses every forensic device from core samples to the jaded familiarity of old timers to sleuth out the water history and dynamics of this very dry city. Cities are made through a chaotic layering of historic artifacts, patterns printed one upon another on natural fabric, each obscuring and sometimes eradicating tatters from the previous scheme. The earliest were responding to a natural environment. Each successive layer became more distant from and therefore beholden to fewer of those geologic features, what are considered to be “original” and “natural” conditions.
Seep City has tracked nearly two dozen major springs that still exist today, even in drought times. The project map was built from earliest available reliable sources consisting of both image and text. It debuts innovations addressing watery specifics such as the how to map past lakes that had no precise shoreline. (They shrank as they soaked into the dunes.) It acts as both a repository of information about San Francisco and an art piece incorporating significant calibrated data.
Come learn more about these many newly discovered elements of this beautiful city’s hydrologic story. 

Joel Pomerantz focuses on exploring and encouraging exploration of San Francisco. As a former journalist, wilderness trip leader, mural organizer and bicycle transportation advocate, he has come to know the city’s underlayers along with a big picture overview. How did things get to be the way they are from the natural settings that existed before? And how do we know that? His study reinforces the realization of the conclusion that we really don’t know much, especially when so many myths are created through folk processes in this chaotic, ever creative town. Joel has put together a historical map and annotated atlas which together form a natural science educational resource. He did this as a citizen scientist simply pursuing his curiosity. 

5:30 - 6:30 p.m. -  No-Host Social and Registration
6:30 - 7:30 p.m. - Dinner and Announcements
7:45 - 8:30 p.m. - Keynote Speaker
8:30 - 8:45 p.m. - Questions and Answers

Fish – Baked fresh Atlantic salmon with herb butter, served with rice pilaf and fresh seasonal vegetables
Meat – Rosemary chicken, garlic mash potatoes and fresh vegetables
Vegetarian – Portobello mushroom ravioli with an Alfredo pesto sauce

$45 for AEG or GRA Member/Member Guest
$55 for Non-Members
$20 for Student attendees

Please pay online by credit card or at the meeting by cash or check payable to: GROUNDWATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION (GRA). If you pay online by credit card, please check in at the venue with David Abbott so that we can get an accurate count.

RSVP Required: Please submit electronic reservation by 12 PM (Noon) Friday, August 12, 2016.


GRA will accept cancellations with no charge until 12:00 PM (Noon) on Friday, August 12, 2016. At that time, we must submit a final head count to HS Lordships and we will be charged accordingly. If you cancel after that time, or are a no-show, we will ask you to pay the cost of your meal(s). Thank you for your cooperation.
All Proceeds to Benefit Science Students
GRA San Francisco Bay Branch is interested in supporting university science students. Our Scholastic Sponsorship Program is an opportunity to publicize your business while contributing toward a good cause. Your sponsorship will be acknowledged in the announcement, at the meeting, and space will be provided for a small display and brochures. Please contact Abigail Madrone at 530-756-5905 for details.
If you have any announcements or questions, please contact the Branch President, John McHugh ( at 510-459-0474, or Branch Treasurer David W. Abbott ( at 510-928-4543.

We are actively looking for potential speakers. If you have a topic or suggestion, please contact the Branch President, John McHugh ( at 510-459-0474.



Wed, Aug. 17, 2016
5:30 p.m. - 8:45 p.m.


HS Lordships
199 Seawall Drive
Berkeley, CA 94710