News

District to hire temporary water-conservation enforcers

With state levying $500-a-day fines for water wasters, Valley water board backs $500,000 conservation effort

The Santa Clara Valley Water District board of directors last night unanimously approved the hiring of up to 10 temporary water enforcers who will be charged with investigating water waste throughout the county.

Water district spokesman Marty Grimes said Wednesday that the team of temporary hires, who could start enforcing water regulations in about a month, will not have the authority to cite people or issue tickets.

"They will be more of an educational resource to respond to complaints or reports that we get or that get referred to us of water waste," he said. "We'll go out and investigate and let people know what the rules are. If they're breaking them, we'll maybe offer referrals to services they might be eligible for, like a water-wise house call or a rebate program to replace some irrigation equipment."

The district's effort comes a week after the State Water Resources Control Board approved an emergency regulation to increase water conservation throughout the state. Starting Aug. 1, up to $500-per-day fines will be issued to people caught using drinkable water to hose off sidewalks and driveways, watering lawns or gardens to the point of causing runoff, washing cars without a hose equipped with a shutoff nozzle and using potable water in fountains.

Grimes said the creation of a water-conservation enforcement team stemmed from the district's desire to "ratchet up our efforts" to combat California's ever-worsening drought.

He said Santa Clara County has only cut its water use by 12 percent since last year.

"Our target is 20 percent, so we have a long way to go. Obviously everything that we've done to date has not gotten us to the goal, so the board has been really interested in doing more.

"We have limited abilities to do things like mandate water restrictions, so this is one thing that we can do," he said.

Palo Alto Utilities Department Communications Manager Catherine Elvert said Wednesday that from January to June, compared to the same time period last year, Palo Alto has saved a cumulative 17 percent in water use. She noted that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which supplies the city's water (Palo Alto receives services, such as infrastructure repairs and grants for water-oriented programs, from the Santa Clara Valley Water District) issued a lower, voluntary reduction goal of 10 percent.

Grimes said he sees the temporary water enforcers as performing a service that resource-strapped cities and water companies who also receive complaints or reports about water waste cannot.

"Not only do we think we can help save water, it's also just helping empower people to do something because a lot of people are doing everything they can in their own water use, and they're now trying to help out by addressing the water waste that they see around them. They can't do it on their own, and water companies and cities don't have the staff to do it on their own, so we want to be a service to them to be able to follow up on these calls."

The district has never implemented a program like this before, Grimes said, estimating it will take about a month to recruit, hire and train the team of enforcers. The board voted 6 to 0 Tuesday to authorize a $500,000 budget to support the program.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is Silicon Valley's largest water provider, supplying 15 cities and private water companies.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:19 am

This should allow everyone to find out which neighbors hate them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by LaNell
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:23 am

This morning I noticed Johnson Park was watering.
The sidewalk had puddles on it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hermia
a resident of Triple El
on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:31 am

LaNell, when I've seen broken or badly directed sprinklers on city property (like along Oregon Expressway, where I tend to notice it) and called it in, they have been great about getting to it and fixing it within a few days.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by water waster
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:39 am

if the city would quit building new buildings--with many, many bathrooms, kitchens, sinks, and showers--and creating mass increase in temporary population as well as new housing again with new showers, kitchens, sinks, bathrooms--we wouldn't have such a water shortage issue. where does the city council in its infinite wisdom--think all this extra water come from--oh yeh, lets fine the ordinary folk--that will solve the problem... and, increased traffic--oh yeh, lets fine the oridnary folk-that will solve the problem.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:43 am

How about checking the fire hydrant at Lowell and Middlefield? It leaks and creates a puddle whenever we have the slightest drizzle.

Our fair city was informed of this problem back in 2011 years ago when I returned from vacation to find a shockingly huge utility bill even though the house was dark and empty.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:08 am

I guess they are not targeting businesses, only RESIDENTS


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:13 am

I second "water waster" on the thought that all that moaning about increased water usage during a drought might just be attributed to the constantly growing population.

The city just can't stand the idea of letting state money go to some other municipality so they cram more and more people into the community causing congestion on the streets, and Oh! My~! A greater strain on our water supply which is NOT ENDLESS, people!

Again as always, it's about the money. They've sold our community character out for money/power and then wonder why problems explode everywhere.

So many fools with a craving for power.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:16 am

there is a lot of value tied up in our residential landscaping. Ruining it and letting thousands of dollars go down the drain is not the answer to the drought. Sensible watering is a good idea, drought or not, but encouraging people to "rat" on others is despicable. I would suggest instead: refuse all this basement de-watering that the rich are doing; forbid people to fill and drain their luxury swimming pools. Do NOT force us to ruin our attractive landscaping in front of our homes!!! Oh, and friends in So Cal have told me, unprompted, that there is terrific waste of water occurring down there. So why Santa Clara County homeowners are supposed to have ruined dried-out gardens is beyond me. An oh, we also hear that business and farming uses far more water than residences in Palo Alto...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:58 am

It would be really great if the City were to provide a report to the residents, and businesses, about the use of water by the Utility's customers. This report would break offer a number of different breakdowns of water use—which would include City and School District as separate categories.

With all of the lawns, and parks, each of these entities needs to be encouraged to cut back--like the residents and businesses.

It's hard to believe that the Utility does not have this information, or could not generate such a report fairly easily. It makes little sense to go after residents with fines, when the government is wasting water with no financial consequence to government employees.

People who have already cut back can not be expected to cut back even more.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Teresa
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 23, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Wow, how about quit moaning and do something? I have buckets in my low flow shower with me. when they need emptying I take them out and water my precious plants. I have low flow toilets, faucets, etc. I put n a drought resistant garden.I save the water in pitchers from waiting for hot water to come through and use it later, for tea, etc.I have reduced my water use by 33% and I did not use much to start with, so guzzlers just need to be reminded. I told the guy at the end of my block that his landscape watering was excessive, it was rushing down the road...he had no idea.. it ran at 4 in the morning, he fixed it. No need to "rat" just let you neighbors know..I just told another couple yesterday they have a broken sprinkler.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julius Smith
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Why do we hear so much about water conservation and so little about new reservoirs, new pipes, and desalination of water in the Bay sitting right next to us? Studies suggest as little as a dollar per cubic meter for desalination of sea water:

Web Link

The issue should not be availability - only price. It's being investigated:

Web Link

but why so slowly that we are resorting to legal hard limits? Who is asleep at the switch here?

If you think we're running out of water, consider the oceans. Yes, desalination and water transport require energy, but we have planty of that as well. Yes, we must control our energy use to avoid polluting and heating up the planet, but that's just engineering. We have accelerating numbers of engineers as well. What we lack is the political organization and will to tackle and solve large-scale problems, including fairly mitigating the impact of needed changes on special interests who oppose such changes with their lobbyists.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Berry
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Every other morning around 5am there is a large water truck that stops at the corner of Yale and College and dumps water onto a patch of dirt! The truck is: A) wasting water B) Wasting diesel fuel C) Costing someone money D) Is a loud ass diesel truck that wakes me up every morning! Anyone know who is commissioning this waste of resources?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SP Phil
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 23, 2014 at 12:41 pm

I already comply with the list of things, except I do have a fountain in my yard. The rules say not to use potable water in fountains.

Question: What gray water can be used for that purpose? Or should I just leave the fountain dry?

I gather that the definition of gray water is water already used for another purpose, such as from washing clothes, showering, etc. But in a fact sheet from Austin, Texas (that I found on-line), there it turns out that

"Gray water may not be used for toilet flushing in single-family properties, water features (ponds,fountains, waterfalls, creeks, etc.), or in vegetable gardens with root crops or where the edible portion of the crop touches the ground."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathryn
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 23, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Nestle water company is pumping California water into bottles and shipping it out of state and from what I understand due to it being on a reservation they aren't required to report quantities.
Can the water police fix this glaring issue?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathryn
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 23, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Good for you Teresa! " I have buckets in my low flow shower with me. when they need emptying I take them out and water my precious plants. I have low flow toilets, faucets, etc. I put n a drought resistant garden.I save the water in pitchers from waiting for hot water to come through and use it later, for tea, etc.I have reduced my water use by 33% and I did not use much to start with, so guzzlers just need to be reminded. I told the guy at the end of my block that his landscape watering was excessive, it was rushing down the road...he had no idea.. it ran at 4 in the morning, he fixed it. No need to "rat" just let you neighbors know..I just told another couple yesterday they have a broken sprinkler."

I noticed my old apt. building has old toilets so I put a container in the unit to lessen the amount of refill water, I encourage other tenants to do the same...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Grey Water--To Use, or Not To Use
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm

> What gray water can be used for that purpose?

Why not contact your water provider in MV? Rules about everything change wildly from community to community across the US.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by VA Water Hog
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 3:50 pm

The cops' first "arrest" should be the Palo Alto Veteran's Administration facility on Arastradero at Foothill Expressway. Go visit them sometime! You will be amazed at the vast expanses of green lawn that place has. Literally, acres of it. When I see them get water wise plants or go brown like the rest of us are expected to do, I'll sit up and take notice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Honor
a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Honor is a registered user.

I am more than happy to do my part when it comes to conserving non-replenishable resources (i.e. water in this case), and I do. Have for years. It would be beneficial if everyone were held to the same standard as all of us homeowners. With more and more development it is concerning to think that the need for water will escalate faster than the rain can fall from the sky (...remember those days?!!)

Cities around the entire state, not only Palo Alto, need to hold the line. We just may have reached critical mass. Let the development go elsewhere, even out of state. Just a thought.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fountains Really?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Can someone explain why fountains which recycle the same water over and over again, need to be "policed"?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Just drove past Stanford playing fields. All their sprinklers are on mid afternoon in the full heat of the day. Should I report them?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 4:08 pm

City Council approved that looming out-of-scale hotel and apartments going in on Arastradero between San Antonio and Arastradero. How much water will they use? I doubt I can save enough to even offset the use of one hotel guest in that 22,000 square foot building (taking the place of a 3500 sq foot local retail space).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Grey Water--To Use or Not To Use
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 5:46 pm

> when it comes to conserving non-replenishable resources (i.e.
> water in this case),

Water is hardly non-replensihable. Where in the world do you get your facts from? Certainly there are times that water availability varies from year-to-year, but water is created via any number of chemical reactions--as well as released from volcanic activity.

Please take some time and learn about the hydrologic cycle.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Read Up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 6:26 pm

To see how the rest of the world looks at our water crisis, just read this week' sedition of the economist. They laugh at California specifically for being so stupid as to allow uncontrolled business and housing developments, and uncontrolled migration into California, with such a severe water shortage ( esp in a state chronically short of water). They also snicker at the fact that Big Agriculture is allowed free use of water, no rationing involved, while residential water is rationed as much as 20%.

The stupidity of all of this has Europe and Asia smirking at us.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Please Provide Guidelines!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:10 pm

I couldn't care less what Europe and Asia think of California - they seem to be flocking here in record numbers (beside the point - sorry to distract). Agriculture should OBVIOUSLY have obviously have consistent rights to water - they produce food for HOW MANY in this country? I do agree that uncontrolled business and housing developments, and uncontrolled migration into California is ridiculous, though the armchair pundits in Europe and Asia would be just as critical (if not more) were California to somehow limit immigration. It's a lose-lose for California when the (jealous) Europeans and Asians are concerned.

I have been concerned about the drought and the plight of California farmers for many months now, yet I have seen nothing from the City of Palo Alto highlighting the issue or suggesting conservation options, let alone any restrictions. So now the response is to spend $500K on "temporary water enforcers." How about sending FREE emails to neighborhood associations and nextdoor.com neighborhoods to at least get people aware and desiring to participate? My lawns are dead from conserving water, and yet I have seen nothing from the City suggestion rationing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Grey Water--To Use or Not To Use
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:42 pm

> they produce food for HOW MANY in this country

Not as much as you might think. The contribution to the CA GDP is only about 3%--for a total of 80%+ of the water supply. Many of the agricultural uses are for "crops" which are not really foods. The following list contains the top ten products, by economic value:

Web Link

Nursery plants, almonds and walnuts are hardly foods, yet they get a significant portion of the State's water supply that far exceeds their economic values.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 24, 2014 at 5:33 am

While agri-business, golf courses, and such continue it is kind of a mockery to expect the public to get all conserving. But the bill will come due and this drought is just the beginning as climate change becomes real NOW.

Reminds me of when our nation endorsed slavery. There was a huge amount of wealth "invested" in slavery and freeing the slaves meant that those people would just be disenfranchised and would have to live with it.

Also, as regards climate change which is causing this (and more rain to occur in the summer as a few days ago a rain record for July was set) the oil owned by some yet still in the ground will have to stay in the ground. Unless we fall for some scam that oil won't be paid for and will stay in the ground. Those people who own that oil will also have to be disenfranchised and just live with it.

Now our lawns and landscaping. Many have invested thousands in it. Indeed many of our trees themselves will slowly die and fall down, or be fodder for fires like the Oakland hills of many years ago. So on some level the landscaping will also have to be disenfranchised.

Don't worry, we soon will have more water than we can deal with. It'll just be a bit salty.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Please Provide Guidelines!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2014 at 9:47 am

Grey water:

Thanks for the link. My comment was not about GDP (money), it was about where our food comes from. From your link, the quote relevant to my comment is:

"The state produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables. Across the nation, US consumers regularly purchase several crops produced solely in California."

I can't comment on the 80%+ water usage you cite - haven't seen that statistic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Grey Water--To Use, or Not To Use
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2014 at 10:19 am

> fruits and nuts are grown in California

Be that as it may, it's difficult to call "fruits and nuts" food – or to justify the use of public water for their cultivation during drought times. Unfortunately, we can't turn off water to farms and not expect problems for the farmers. Long range water/land use policies need to be in place that reduces the agricultural use of land requiring significant water for low-value crops.

> not familiar with the statistic

Given that everyone in California mostly lives in a desert—it's a good idea for everyone to know where the water comes from, and how its utilized.

Actual use numbers tend to vary over time. About twenty years ago the Mercury News published an extensive review of the topic, claiming that about 85% of the water use was by agriculture. The following posting on grey water suggests that the actual amount is closer to 77%:

Web Link

The largest percentage of water consumption (77%) in California is attributed to agriculture (Figure 1) with an estimated 13% for urban residential use (both single- and multi-family).


Different sources will likely push this number up, or down, based on the agenda of the person/group doing the reporting.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lila
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2014 at 11:31 am

Again, spending unnecessary money and skirting around the real issue, which is over development. Can these hired hands fine people for using leaf blowers, dogs off leash, sit and lie dwellers, smokers in our parks, and all of the other daily code offenders? Our city has a wealth of code violations and nothing is enforced. Our Public Works department has only 2 people in code enforcement! A city this big and growing needs more people to manage it and the city council and manager don't see the big picture and try to apply patchwork solutions to mask big problems.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terrence
a resident of University South
on Jul 24, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Wouldn't it be easier and more cost effective to just put security cameras everywhere? That way each home could be monitored for water wasting activities. No more watering the sidewalk!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terrence
a resident of University South
on Jul 24, 2014 at 1:51 pm

@Honor wrote:

"I am more than happy to do my part when it comes to conserving non-replenishable resources (i.e. water in this case), and I do."

Good news, Honor! A method has been found to replenish are aqueous resources. It's called a storm. We have Mother Nature to thank for that one. ;)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 24, 2014 at 6:19 pm

@A Noun Ea Mus -- "a few days ago a rain record for July was set"

I honestly missed that news and can't find it. Which record was broken? I recall 1974 as being a pretty wet July for Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Soul Brother
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 7:29 pm

...Kalifornia Uber ALLES!!! -the Dead Kennedys


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 25, 2014 at 3:57 pm

It is quite clear from the conversation that people do not take the situation seriously. The joke will be on us.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Please post the email address and phone number to report water wasters.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Liberal Utopia=Police State...Water Cops?... No surprise here.


Meet the new boss... Same as the old boss...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 27, 2014 at 11:35 pm

I'm not ecological expert, but if we stop all this watering will not most of the
plants and trees we have here die?

If they plants and trees we have die, then will not the microclimate in Palo Alto which
is fairly nice now die with it?

The trees start to dry up and die and then we find out what the heat we get is
really like. I had a large tree startling mine and my neighbor's yard taken down
which shaded both our back yards. Well, without that that tree my backyard is
a completely different place now.

We keep thinking first order linear, and the world and life is just not like that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Waste
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2014 at 9:09 am

Some of the biggest water wasters are the city! At 3:00 pm, Thursday, watering took place along Alma near Charleston; this happens at least once a week, in the heat of the day!

The city needs to follow the rules imposed on the rest of us.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 28, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Maybell Orchard:
100 trees,
no irrigation despite the drought,
decades old,
across from existing park and school for disabled and elementary,
central location for community gathering place and orchard residents would have raised the money to create

estimate (by City) of value of orchard only $6.8M,
amt City spending on signs and cosmetics at City Hall almost $5M

City had first right of refusal and could have purchased property pending residents paying them back in 5 years (residents offered).

Number of City Councilmembers thinking about water usage and trees in Maybell decision: 0


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Amber
a resident of another community
on Aug 3, 2014 at 2:41 pm

No need to hire people to waste more money California!! It is as simple as a #hashtag. When you see it post it on your social media and rat these people that are not following the rules. Stand up as citizens and start regulating your own communities!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Amber
a resident of another community
on Aug 3, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Yes, me again. I just read through these comments and cannot believe that there are people that are complaining about their plants dying!! IF YOU KEEP USING WATER FOR PLANTS, GRASS, WASHING CARS AND SIDEWALKS EVENTUALLY YOU WILL BE RATIONING WATER TO DRINK, BATH AND USE THE SEWER. Seriously can you not see the bigger picture here????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2014 at 5:34 pm

@Amber,

FYI 80% of California's water is used for agriculture. Almonds are now a $3.8B export crop, a thirsty crop often grown with unmetered water. Web Link

Efficiency is important. Shouting at people who are not the problem doesn't solve the problem.


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