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Getting creative with conservation

Original post made on Jun 24, 2014

Five Midpeninsula students are being recognized for their entries in a water conservation-themed art contest hosted by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 12:32 PM

Comments (6)

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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Wow, that poster is both professional and beautiful - I'd put that up just as art. Congratulations to the kids.

I would love to see the kids assess conservation in the bigger picture of what is happening here. It's one thing if the population remained static and we all conserved. However, we are told to conserve while at the same time, the developers and growth-crazy Council are building like there's no tomorrow. (And no need for things like open space and awareness of natural landscape.) This is a desirable place that developers profit mightily from and lots of people want to move here. The fact is that the entire country cannot empty into this area, and there is a limit to the resources we have, but our Council seems oblivious to that fact.

This is an arid region. Quick math problem for the kids. If about 75% of water is used by homeowners and 25% by commercial building occupants, if all the office workers, homeowners and residents each save 10-20% but we add 20,000 more people because of construction in the pipeline and, oh, 40,000 more office workers, how much more water will we be using overall? Remember to add the significant water waste that goes along with new construction, as well as the water that goes along with the destruction of existing vegetation and necessary for the establishment of new vegetation.

For extra points, account separately for the number of extra faucets and showers resulting from high-density overzoned new construction and hotels (faucets accounting for more than 15% of indoor household water use and showering around 17% according to the EPA), and don't forget to account for the extra residents packing in their families to access local schools.

As a round number, you can assume that the average American uses around 100 gallons of water each day.

Perhaps someone could just look at how much more water the dozens of PC zoned developments the Council has approved in recent years are/will use than we will save if residents conserve more than they already do. My small sustainable natural fescue lawn in back is already dead and my garden is seriously strained, not sure how I can get another 20%. I'd rather look at the Big Picture.

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Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2014 at 10:11 pm

@ Big Picture - I don't want to get off the message topic immediately, but your numbers seem off. According to this article Web Link, 80% of California's water is used by agriculture, the remaining 20% is split between residents, government and businesses.

I do agree that there are too many people being crammed in to too few resources and not enough infrastructure.

Love Sundemeyer's poster. The colors make it feel like death is approaching...

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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:21 am

@Jim H,
I don't think we have a conflict. I got the numbers from the EPA. Web Link They don't really conflict with what you've brought up -- The water use numbers are for building occupants and does not include agriculture. The percentage of use by faucets relates to residential use, as does showering. All of the above are what is relevant to Palo Alto overdevelopment, as we don't really have agricultural use within our borders and the 20% reductions are being directed at residential and business users.

Why is it that we don't have any Big Picture data or analysis tools, including safety and resources, by which to judge new developments???

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Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:17 pm

So, then if residents use 75% of the overall 20%, that would be 15% of all water being used by residents. A 20% reduction by residents (assuming ALL residents cut use by 20%), that would be an overall 3% savings in total water usage.

Now, if you get just a 5% reduction in agricultural use, through more efficient watering, you'd save 4%, or, just a bit more than a 20% reduction in all residential users.

Here's a good article by the Mercury News: Web Link

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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2014 at 4:34 pm

@Jim H,
Good article, with good points. Far be it from me to insert logic into how government plans.

However, you're actually dealing with the real Big Picture on water apportionment in the state, and I'm addressing the Big Picture of urban water use the kids are addressing in their posters.

The reservoirs from which our drinking water comes here in Palo Alto and nearby cities are not used in anywhere near the proportions you cite, they're dominated by residential use. Those reservoirs mostly provide drinking water to our cities, and our residential conservation efforts directly impact those water resources.

Hetch Hetchy, for example, is pretty much an urban water supply. It provides 80% of the water for 2.6 million people, according to Wikipedia. It delivers 31,900,000 cu ft of water a day to Bay Area residents. That's a lot of water, and saving 20% of it is a lot of water, too. I'm sorry, I don't to convert that, but if the assumption that 100 gallons a day per person is typical, that's a savings of around 50 million gallons of drinking water every day. But there's no real savings if we are adding so many more new people, the savings because of the sacrifice of residents is just dwarfed by all the high-density residential building being added.

All this high density development adds to the drain on our reservoirs. Our Council has been approving building as if resources are infinite. We are being asked to conserve on the one hand to the point of it affecting our quality of life, and on the other, the City keeps giving away zoning and making really dumb densification decisions that add far more people and use far more water than the existing residents can save through their sacrifices.

If the City gave us residents a choice of how we, as a town, would use less water, do you think it would be to halt the densification of this town or sacrifice even more in their individual lives? Because the former is going to use more water.

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Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2014 at 4:37 pm

I would love to see the kids program a Sim Palo Alto to take the different resources into account in the face of development.

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