Why Angela Cheung Believes Diverse Skills are Key to Keeping the Hetch Hetchy System Running

“I don’t know of another water system quite like ours. The way we move water through the Regional Water System is a bit unique,” said Angela Cheung.

Cheung is the SFPUC’s Water Supply and Treatment Division Manager, where she oversees the system integral to the delivery of high-quality drinking water to 2.7 million people in Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. About 85 percent of the water that the SFPUC treats originates from Hetch Hetchy and the other 15 percent comes from local reservoirs in Alameda and San Mateo counties.

“We are constantly moving water around in the system, not just to deliver it for immediate use by the wholesale and retail customers, but also to keep enough water stored in local reservoirs in case we get cut off from Hetch Hetchy unexpectedly,” she shared. “We run our water treatment plants at high rates in the winter and at low rates in the summer, the complete opposite of most other systems.” Cheung explained that it is because Hetch Hetchy provides most of the water during the summer. In the winter, the upcountry system goes offline for maintenance and rehabilitation, and the two large plants in the Bay Area kick into high gear to keep drinking water flowing to customer taps. Hundreds of miles of large-diameter pipelines and tunnels are part of the backbone of the Regional Water System.

“I can go on and on about what we do here at the Water Supply and Treatment Division for the Regional Water System,” she further explained. “The success of a system like ours takes having the water, the infrastructure to deliver the water, and people with the right skills to run the system. People with a good skill set and expertise are so important for our system.”

Cheung shared how her upbringing was a melding of eastern and western values and cultures. “I have always felt that being Asian American means I get to have the best of both worlds. The Asian part of my upbringing taught me to be humble, hard-working and generous. The American part of me has taught me to be open-minded about other cultures and be assertive when I need to be,” she recounted, although being Asian American has taken on a new meaning for her lately. “I have experienced discrimination and violence that I attributed to being Asian American, but the kind of senseless anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander attacks I see in the news nearly every day in the last few months has motivated me to be part of the movement.”

Cheung urged that one way to fight against anti-Asian discrimination is by banding together. “We are Asian Americans, not Chinese American, Korean American, or fill-in-the-blank American,” she said. “We have far more in common than we have differences.”

Cheung shared about her outrage toward recent attacks of seniors. At the same time, she has found many allies and young people coming together to speak out heartening. “The rallies against anti-Asian hate and violence are heartwarming and inspiring,” she shared. “I am encouraged that the next generation of Asian Americans, like my daughter, will grow up knowing their rights and fight for equality. This is also the generation that is being taught at a young age to be tolerant and accepting of our differences more than any other generation before.”

In the midst of what has been going on, Cheung is still hopeful of change. “In a world where you can be anything, be kind,” she shared. “We need people of all races to embrace diversity. Diversity is a strength, not a weakness.”