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Voters asked to approve new reservoir site

Original post made by Anonymous on Oct 16, 2007

Measure N asks Palo Alto voters to approve a trade-off: Should the city sacrifice access to El Camino Park for three years in exchange for improved water supplies in an emergency?

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 16, 2007, 2:10 PM

Comments (20)

Posted by Vote No, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:06 am

Vote no. I four current City Council proposed it, then I will vote against it. Same with measure M (hotel tax).

Posted by Jim, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:12 am

The City website has some answers:

Web Link

I have attended a couple of public meetings on this issue, a few years ago. It seems legit to me...the emergency supply is needed.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:39 am

I've seen the rationale - thanks for the web site pointer! Doesn't really answer the questions:

1. What do we have today?
2. What situations are we protecting against?
3. What durations?
4. Who will staff?
5. What other facilities do emergency services rely on?

If an earthquake knocked out water and power for a month - what services does this tank guarantee? If it's really just a first-responder resource, do we have a published first day plan?

I'm raising these questions not because I believe this is a bad project, but without a coherent, complete description of what benefits we're buying we can't vote intelligently.

Posted by Vote No, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:45 am

Anonymous--coherent, complete descriptions of what benefits we're buying is not possible with the current city council--they know what is best--we should follow them blindly and vote for whatever they propose.

Posted by Jim, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 9:09 am


Most of your questions were addressed at the public meetings that I attended. However, it has been a few years, so my mind is a bit fuzzy on the answers.

As I remember, the utilities department, along with an outside consultant analyzed the existing system. There is a lack of emergency water in the Downtown region. Existing reservoirs in the hills cannot meet the potential demand with existing plumbing. This problem has been recognized for a long time, but newer state standards require that it be fixed.

The utilities department will manage the reservoir and wells, as it currently does with the existing system. The project will be paid for with existing money and ongoing utilities fees. No bond is necessary.

I am no expert, but I was convinced of the need. The Council does not seem to be terribly involved in this project. I think it is just looking for community support for political reasons. My impression is that this thing would have been built years ago, if the Council was not getting involved for political reasons. I think Yoriko had/has a real problem with Stanford. The reservoir will be built on Stanford land (El Camino Park) and the project will also benefit Stanford for its emergency water needs. I'm not sure what her beef is.

As I recall, construction would occur over about a two year period. Although it will take away playing fields for that period, the recreation groups seemed to be in favor, because the resulting playing fields will be somewhat better than the current ones.

There was an existing emergency response plan presented, but I forget what it was/is. However, the improved system would allow just enough water to get by for a few days...extended with severe rationing. Of particular concern was fire fighting efforts in the Downtown and Stanford.

That's all I remember.

Posted by Anna, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 9:27 am

Reluctantly, I am with Vote No on this. Our current council and management have shown that they can't be trusted either to tell us the whole truth about "needed" infrastructure projects, or to manage money we give them via bond or spending elections responsibly.

The storm drain tax was a recent proposal we were told (via Blue Ribbon Committee and otherwise) was "essential". Now it turns out that they can only do half of the essential projects with the money they said they needed. Nobody seems to be asking for more, so what's the deal? Are these projects no longer "essential"? Or are we at risk of the catastrophes they told us about during the storm drain tax campaign because they've spent money so irresponsibly that they can't do these "essential" projects?

The tunnel under the train tracks near Homer Avenue is a similar fiasco. Seven million dollars spent for a tunnel that can't be used easily because they forgot about dealing with the fact that Homer is one way where the tunnel comes out.

Etc. etc.

Is it a good idea to tell them to go ahead with Measure N based on their track record?

Posted by Vote No, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:17 am

I'm definitely voting "no" on this one. The plan proposed will provide only a limited amount of water for a short period of time. No way will it provide PA's long term water needs if an earthquake damages water supplies from Hetch Hetchy.

Palo Alto should look to San Jose who are building a conversion plant to clean their waste water next to their sewage treatment plant. We could build a similar conversion plant next to our sewage treatment plant which would provide us with the long term water supplies we may need.

Incidentally, much of Los Angeles water is now reclaimed from their sewage treatment plants. This is the future.

Posted by Jim, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:37 am

Vote No,

I believe the primary issue is about storage of water. If a major fire happens Downtown, following an earthquake, a reliable source of water would be necessary nearby. The current system does not provide that capability. At least that is my understanding. The provision of backup drinking water, while important, is a secondary issue. The new and rebuilt wells, which are part of this project, are aimed at the drinking water issue.

Posted by Vote No, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:48 am

What the City is not telling you is that they already have a backup system. Palo Alto has a reservoir behind Lucille M. Nixon School on the Stanford campus off Stanford Avenue.

Posted by Jim, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:52 am

Vote No,

Yes, there is that backup system, but it is not close enough to Downtown. That reservoir is better situated for south Palo Alto. In fact, that reservoir will be improved if this deal goes forward.

I want to emphasize that I am not an expert on this stuff. Just an interested citizen that attended a couple of meetings, because I had my doubts about spendig so much money. I was able to overcome my doubts. I have no special interest in the project, nor will I benefit from it any more than anybody else in PA.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:30 pm

Out of curiosity, will this reservoir reduce oir fire insurance rates?
In my opinion you can never have enough reserves.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:46 pm


Thanks for the improved lede! Did Mr Cwiak say how many days of storage we have today without Measure N?

Posted by Little League Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2007 at 5:31 pm

I am more concerned about the aspect of closing the park for three years. As it is, we have little enough places for our kids to play baseball and soccer on good fields. For fall ball, Hoover Park is closed and that means Little League is using El Camino as well as Middlefield. We are increasing the numbers of teams because of the numbers of kids playing sports and that is probably due to the same reason as the increasing enrollments in our schools. How we can manage for three years without El Camino is going to be an interesting problem, but if the end result is going to be improved playing fields, particularly for the many days that the City of PA Rec. Dept. close the fields after rain storms, then the ultimate outcome may be good. However, it is the three intervening years that will be problematic.

I say vote Yes, so that ultimately we will improving our kids' playing fields and hopefully the possibility of improving other fields for the duration will materialise.

Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:51 pm

Why should all the reserve water supplies be in North PA. This new water storage facility won't help south Palo Alto at all.

Posted by Palo Alto or Bay Area, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 17, 2007 at 8:45 am

Is this reserve system be used for Palo Alto in case of emergency.

If in an emergency the entire Bay Area will benefit - why not locate it more central in the county and charge the entire county ????

Posted by Becky Trout, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Oct 17, 2007 at 11:42 am

Becky Trout is a registered user.

Good morning,

Not the best answer this time, but basically the city can't provide non-Hetch-Hetchy water at a high enough pressure in the north right now.

That's why the reservoir -- linked to a well -- is needed in the north.

For Anon, I'm still trying to find out the number of days, but it seems the need is pressure, not time.

Posted by Utilities Customer, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 18, 2007 at 11:22 am

I seem to remember in some previous discussions that the City
routinely charges market rate lease fees to the Utilities
dept for infrastructure on city land. In fact, it sounded like
this mechanism provided a significant portion of city revenues.

How much extra in future Utilities rate increases will this
project cause?

Or am I misinformed?


Posted by Utilities Customer, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 18, 2007 at 11:39 am

I found the previous discussion I referred to in my earlier
post. See:

Web Link

This was a Diana Diamond blog posting.


Posted by Becky Trout, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Oct 18, 2007 at 4:50 pm

Becky Trout is a registered user.

It looks like using its emergency supply -- the five existing wells --the city is about 6 million gallons short per day in the winter and 12 million gallons per day short in the summer.

Some other info from Engineering Manager Roger Cwiak:

We have approximately 10 million gallons of stored water in the system
at any given time. Palo Alto uses water at a rate of approximately 11
million gallons per day in the winter and 17 million gallons a day in
the summer. 1/3 of this water is in reserve for fire fighting. The
City has 5 existing wells that were built between 1938 and 1958. These
5 existing wells can produce about 4000 gallons per minute (5 Million
gallons per day). The proposed improvements would add 3 new wells and
rehabilitate the 5 existing wells. These improvements should boost the
production of emergency water to approximately 11,000 gallons per minute
or 15. 5 million gallons per day.

Posted by Liam White, a resident of Nixon School
on Jan 15, 2008 at 8:21 am

this is a very bad idea !!!!!

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