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County mulls hiring 'water conservation enforcers'

Original post made on Jul 22, 2014

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is set to vote tonight on a staff recommendation to hire up to 10 temporary "water conservation enforcers" to respond to complaints about people wasting water in the county, a district spokesman said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 2:52 PM

Comments (33)

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Without any real evidence about the amount of water wasted .. hiring all of these people seems like a waste of money.

People need to remember that 80% of the state's water is consumed by the farming sector--which produces only about 3% of the state's GDP. It would seem that finding ways to reduce the water consumed in farming would be more productive than harassing people for washing down their driveways.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 4:48 pm

@ Joe,
The farming sector is not using the fresh water reservoir's where we get our urban drinking water.

However, we ought to be putting a moratorium on new development and urban densification until we have had a chance to assess whether our infrastructure and resources can handle such intensification of use. Many of us were already conserving before this drought. I resent being policed because our City Council made it possible to pack a lot more people in here. Not only are they more than offsetting my water savings, but construction itself is downright abusive when it comes to water usage. How much water will the new development use in a drought? Did any of the City Councilmembers think of that when they were analyzing impacts of all this new high-density development?


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 22, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Wait a minute. If I'm allocated a certain amount for a certain price, why is it anyone's business how I use it? If I buy 24 bottles of drinking water at Safeway and pour them down the gutter, will I get fined?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm


> The farming sector is not using the fresh water reservoir's
> where we get our urban drinking water.

Perhaps not today, but what about tomorrow?

Water is transportable. So, just because it's going one place today does not mean it can not end up somewhere else tomorrow.

And while we're talking about transporting water--what about shipping in a few million gallons from somewhere, to increase the local supply of fresh water?


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Posted by My Take
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2014 at 5:44 pm

As I understand it ( as told by an employee of PA Utilities, anyone caught washing their car or hosing down a driveway will be fined. Anyone caught watering lawn or plants during daylight hours will be fined. Anyone caught using a hose without a regulator nozzle will be fined. Fines will start at $500.


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Posted by My Take
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2014 at 5:49 pm

It does seem to me that as long as there is a severe drought in California, no new developments or residents who would add to the water usage should be allowed entry.

I seem to remember reading in Time Magazine twenty years ago that this was done in Connecticut during a drought, and that people who already lived there but worked in New York were taking showers in New York, since that state had plenty of water at the time. Anyone remember this?


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 22, 2014 at 6:04 pm

You can wash your car if you use a nozzle with an automatic shut-off valve.

Web Link


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Yet Palo Alto, with its pro-development, pro-developer, anti-environment policies still allows dewatering for basement construction in residential
areas which can involve loss of millions of gallons of water while the State imposes new water conservation measures and the Water District warns about dropping ground water reserves. The State Water Resources Control
Board needs to intervene and stop local governments like Palo Alto from
continuing these practices.


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Posted by My Take
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Back in the late 90's, when we were looking for a home in Palo Alto, our agent sent us to look at a home on Colorado Ave, off of Cowper on the east side. Near it was a huge home being built, including a basement, for which the property was being dewatered. Further up the street toward Middlefield another house was jacked up in order to install a partial basement, and that was also being dewatered.

The house for sale on Colorado had a concrete foundation. I noticed some large cracks with ants crawling out of them, and even more, similar wide cracks in the garage and driveway. At the time I assumed these were earthquake damage, but later put 2 and 2 together and realized that probably there was an aquifer under this portion of Colorado, and as the water level lowered it was messing up the foundation to this and other houses in the area.

Building a basement in an area with an aquifer should be illegal. It not only wastes an ungodly amount of water, but makes the ground unstable. This IS illegal on Sn Jose--why is it allowed in Palo Alto? What geological survey would recommend such a thing as dewatering an aquifer in order to build a basement ( which is a liability anyway, due to cracks, leaks, flooding, etc)?

Is this happening so much solely because a finished basement used as living space cannot be counted as additional squAre footage by the tax assessor? Maybe it is time to pass a law taxing basements?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 7:33 pm

"Water is transportable. So, just because it's going one place today does not mean it can not end up somewhere else tomorrow."

True, but in practical terms, this usually requires big and expensive infrastructure changes. And what for? So we can lower the quality of life on the coasts to pack yet more people there? Have you driven across the country and seen how empty some of it is, and in need of urban renewal other parts are? It's not even in our economic or security interest to have just one high tech center. Nor is it really practical because of the limits of water and other resources.

The developers have gotten plenty of exploitation out of this wave of overdevelopment. Time to stop.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Water is transportable. Great! Now where can I get a load of gray water delivered to water my yard once a week?

Seriously, there must be a market for this business.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 8:26 pm

> but in practical terms, this usually requires big and expensive
> infrastructure changes.

Really? Depends on where the water is coming from, and where it wants to go.

Don't forget that water can be transported by river, canal, and pipe. There are options that need to be considered before making such claims.

> Now where can I get a load of gray water delivered to
> water my yard once a week?

The City's water quality plant produces a large quantity of reworked water that is current poured into the bay. It would seem that this is a good time to consider getting a water truck, and experiment with reused water delivers here in Palo Alto. Someone might need a tank to hold the water, but there's no reason that the delivery service might not just water the lawn.

There is no reason that we shouldn't be trying to resuse all of the water we can that comes out of the water quality plant.


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Posted by Marlen
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 22, 2014 at 8:36 pm

I'm truly shocked, SHOCKED, that folks here would turn this statewide issue into a reason to oppose development. Are there people out there that are deluded enough to think that homes wont just be built somewhere else? Is the entitlement attitude so strong that they think they should have first crack at natural resources?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 8:36 pm

@Joe,
Maybe you can get all the new developments to pledge only to use grey water and stop using potable drinking water. Good luck.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 22, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Drive around up and down El Camino through all the cities and count the new apartment buildings, that massive hotel - a Hilton Garden, I think, in Palo Alto, the dorms and buildings going up at Stanford, the massive new Stanford hospital, the huge buildings at Stanford Shopping Center, a Ronald McDonald House double its size, ----and this city will penalize and fine ME for watering my roses on my small lot for two people already stingy with water??!!! There are McMansions going up all over town. Drive around "Old Palo Alto"!! Look at buildings downtown. The more employees, the more "flushes'. Time to put a moratorium on all building, period.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 9:14 pm

> the dorms and buildings going up at Stanford, the massive new Stanford
> hospital, the huge buildings at Stanford Shopping Center, a Ronald
> McDonald House double its size, -

The University does not buy water from the City of Palo Alto, so their growth will not affect you directly. Stanford does draw from Hetch Hetchy, but it has its own contracts.

Roses don't take that much water. Maybe you could buy bottled water for a while, to avoid being fined.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Dewatering in Palo Alto, allowed even in the midst of "exceptional drought" conditions without the City even blinking, is just one more facet of the
range of impacts from massive over-development which is destroying the qualities, livability and environment of the City and underscores the
extent to which the City serves the interests of developers and their
architects as its top priority. One residential basement can require
the pumping out and loss of 6-8 million gallons of water. The State needs
to come in and shut this down.




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Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Awesome - bring on the Water Nazis!


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Posted by Wow!
a resident of another community
on Jul 22, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Just another way to scam us out of our tax dollars in the name of environmentalism.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 22, 2014 at 11:32 pm

How far has our Utilities Department progressed on the purple pipes (recycled water distrbution system)? The last line on their current webpage -- Web Link (dated Nov 2012) -- says:

"The Project could move into design in 2013 and into construction in 2014."

Then there's a link to a 180-page pdf file (12 megabyte) from the end of 2008. The Executive Summary is only 12 pages.

Proposed pipeline capacity of this phase was 900 acre feet per year, mostly allocated to Stanford Research Park.

There's plenty more water where that came from.

Our wastewater plant webpage -- Web Link -- says our Regional Water Quality Control Plant processes 22 million gallons per day, which is nearly 25,000 acre feet per year, enough to fill Stevens Creek Reservoir every six weeks.


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Posted by resident (different than "Resident")
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 1:45 am

@My Take, you wrote "I'm truly shocked, SHOCKED, that folks here would turn this statewide issue into a reason to oppose development. Are there people out there that are deluded enough to think that homes wont just be built somewhere else? Is the entitlement attitude so strong that they think they should have first crack at natural resources?"

Use of resources IS a development issue. Statewide people have been asked to cut back 20% but use has gone up 1%. Is that because existing residents aren't conserving, or because of new development? If it's the latter, it's developers and their shills that have the entitlement attitude, expecting existing residents to so the developers can get away with whatever they want for their own short-term profits. Where I come from, unchecked growth with no regards to available resources is called a "cancer".

I resent your portraying opposing the exploitation of Palo Alto for the short-term profit of a few developers as some kind of "entitlement attitude". People who have sacrificed to live here, laid down roots here, contributed to the community, own property here -- they are existing residents and the laws give them rights. You may not like that residents of a town have rights, and that they can expect them to be upheld in the face of developers wanting to take them away for their own short-term profits, too bad.

It was never right that the Council was imposing overdevelopment on us without any regard to the limitations of infrastructure or resources anyway. If people build somewhere else, that's the market-place at work. It's wrong to force development on an area that doesn't have the capacity for it.

In case you hadn't noticed, there are many depressed areas of this nation that could really use the development dollars and where an infusion of new people would be a good thing. Additionally, more tech centers because this one is saturated would actually be better for our nation, for innovation, and even national and economic security. I hear Fresno is becoming a vibrant place for young people -- if developers are heading there where development dollars are more needed because the resources here are strained, that's what's supposed to happen. If the developments here are better and more thoughtfully planned, with infrastructure and resources in mind, because residents stand up against exploitation and demand it, that's also better for the future. It never was healthy for Council to push more and more development on us without regard to resources like water. If the drought makes us pay attention to the limitations of resources in the face of overdevelopment, then there's a silver lining.


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Posted by resident (different than "Resident")
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 1:46 am

of course I meant:

Use of resources IS a development issue. Statewide people have been asked to cut back 20% but use has gone up 1%. Is that because existing residents aren't conserving, or because of new development? If it's the latter, it's developers and their shills that have the entitlement attitude, expecting existing residents to sacrifice so the developers can get away with whatever they want for their own short-term profits. Where I come from, unchecked growth with no regards to available resources is called a "cancer".


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 6:24 am

Dewatering for basement construction is not just a development/resource issue. Our area is subject to subsidence. We need to maintain and replenish
the water table to avoid subsidence, which historically has been a
serious problem in our area. The City of Palo Alto's pro-development
anti-environment policies which extend to allowing dewatering for basement
construction even during "extreme drought" conditions are reckless and
need to be curtailed by the State Water Resources Control Board.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 7:44 am

Doesn't the PA aquifer flow to the baylands? If so, what's the difference between flowing underground or getting there via the storm drains?

And no, I don't have a house under construction and building a basement.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 23, 2014 at 9:19 am

Homes are going up with huge basements that require removal of ground water - example house on Newell Road. This topic came up at the Water Meeting at Lucie Stern Center. Palo Alto's response was recognition that it was taking place but no enforcement of ground water control as it is not going through a water meter. This water is going down the drain.
I think all new construction should be metered even if the house is not yet built. The workers were using "good water" to clean the dirt off the streets. Who is paying for that? The neighbors?
I think that that water should be funneled through San Francisquito Creek so that the in-flux of bay salt water can be offset with a down flow of water. The baylands is getting silt pushed up stream due to high tides with no offsetting downstream cleaning function.
The city needs to rethink what it is doing. It cannot penalize existing homes while homes under construction are running open loop in the use of water.
The street trees need the ground water to survive - they have root systems that are suppose to be getting water from the underground system.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 9:29 am

I would like to ask the City how they are conserving water? Are they still overwatering our parks so that they are waterlogged? Will they be flushing drains and sewers during the drought? Have they replanted city flowerbeds with drought resistant plants and lawns with stones and rocks? Have they refrained from planting new trees that need plenty of water in the first year of being planted?

We plan to keep watering our lawn where we have children playing on the grass. A lawn that is not watered will only be dormant if nobody uses it. Kids running around playing soccer will ruin a dry lawn and turn it into dust and be much more dangerous if a child falls than on a nice lawn.


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Posted by Marlen
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 9:51 am

@resident [Portion removed.] You seem to be under some impression that "developers" are using resources or driving growth, rather than PEOPLE, which is understandable in the sense that you don't want to part of any shared responsibility. If you are truly concerned about a shortage of resources, but insist on living here and consuming them, I don't see how you can be upset that others can and are doing the *exact* same thing.


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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:54 am

Now they are going to hit us with property taxes without a vote to pay for the two water tunnels to ship water to LA. Since we all voted for the state water project pre-prop 13 they claim they can just tax us willy nilly, no vote. The farmers in the Central Valley have figured out how to get us to pay for their water!!!


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Posted by observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:57 am

@Resident1
The house on Newell being dewatered you mentioned. Do you have any information on it? It appears that there is an oak tree which is supposed to be protected under City ordinance right in front next to the excavation, within feet. The sign says Kohler and Assoc is the architect. Is this a spec house? Kohler did a teardown new construction with basement early this year on Hamilton just off Newell which did not require dewatering, then went on market and sold within a couple weeks.


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:08 am

@observer - I don't think the house on Newell is a spec house - I do wish I could use the water that they are pumping into the storm drain to water my plants!


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Observer - I was driving down Newell and saw a workman with a huge industrial hose shooting water at the street and the working area. Curiosity - I stopped to check out the site - HUGE hole still digging. That is a full basketball court down there. I talked to the workman and he said that the water in his hose was the "good water". There did not appear to be any reason why he was dumping so much water. Looked in the site bottom - could see equipment to drain hole. Other people know more about this than me - I was just disheartened by what I saw. My whole neighborhood is redoing itself so everyone is putting a lot of time and energy into fixing their homes to be more water efficient. Now we are going to get penalized.


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Posted by resident (different than "Resident")
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2014 at 8:34 pm

@ Marlen,
[Portion removed.] Please explain. If I buy a car with 6 seats, and all 6 seats are taken, and someone else really wants to sit in my car because they can charge money for it, and keeps packing people in the car, you don't think I have any right to complain?

Where did this sense of entitlement come that everyone in the world has a right to pack into Palo Alto, no matter the impact to infrastructure, environment, and resources, and that existing residents who often have sacrificed plenty and worked up to living here over decades around the bay are just being selfish and should just move over and let developers sell off the quality of life here for their own short-term profit?

This is a desirable place, and developers are going to try to exploit it, that's why zoning rules and consistency with the Comprehensive Plan are important. Development is supposed to be contingent on things like safety, zoning, and resources, and all that has gone out the window. Now I am being asked to sacrifice more than just more or my life and time in traffic breathing exhaust fumes, I'm being asked to radically change my life to save even more water when the City Council is at the same time just adding people willy nilly through approving overzoned development after overzoned development.

I'm deluded for expecting zoning to be respected? For us to think about water as a finite resource and ask everyone, including developers, to be subject to limitations? See you at the ballot box in November, I'll be there with lots of my friends who are tired of this overdevelopment.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 24, 2014 at 8:23 am

I think people in Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Atherton are laughing. They have no mega-business so do not need to add multi-housing.
They appear to have no requirement to do this. They can come here to work and go home at night to a "regular" town and a "regular house" - better than the one they would have here.

Palo Alto - wake up - you do not need to assume the mountain of guilt - you are not required to be a leader in the liberal left. Everyone is passing us by - look at the other streams about businesses closing and moving on; about architectural consternation. Guess what - Sunnyvale and Mountain View are the new home of mega-business.

More multi-housing equates to more water use. We need to lower our profile.


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