State sets new mandatory water restrictions for urban areas


California's State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously Wednesday to impose new mandatory restrictions on urban water use as the state enters its fourth year of drought.

The state's drought could become even more dire as the year goes on. Little relief is expected entering the typically dry spring and summer months, and Sierra snowpack is only at around 20 percent of average.

While most urban water agencies have placed their own restrictions, water board members said Wednesday that those steps have not gone far enough and there is little consistency between agencies.

"Urban agencies have not stepped up as much as they should be stepping up," state water board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said at Wednesday's meeting.

Palo Alto officials passed a resolution in August 2014 restricting the use of potable water in fountains and on driveways and sidewalks.

The resolution was the city's response to a July 2014 decision by the State Water Resources Control Board to approve emergency regulations to deal with the statewide drought.

The restrictions passed Wednesday include prohibition on landscape irrigation during the 48 hours following measurable precipitation and calls on water agencies to set a limit on the number of days per week landscapes can be watered.

If any jurisdictions fail to set a weekly limit on watering landscapes, the limit will be automatically set at two days per week when the new regulations take effect.

The restrictions on landscape watering came under fire particularly from people running golf courses. Many golf course representatives said they thought they could bring water usage down without limiting how many days they irrigate.

"It's achievable, it's doable, it's what the industry wants to do, we do need a little flexibility," Ron Zraick, the general manager at San Jose's Cinnabar Hills Golf Club and president of the California Golf Course Owners Association, said at Wednesday's meeting.

He said his golf course has achieved water reductions of nearly 25 percent and has a great relationship with the local water district.

The new regulations do allow for allocation-based rate structures, board adviser Max Gomberg said.

In addition to placing new restrictions on landscape irrigation, the regulations passed Wednesday require restaurants to only provide drinking water on request and hotels to give guests an option to not have their towels and linens laundered daily.

The new restrictions extend and broaden restrictions set last year with the goal of a 20 percent reduction in water usage from 2013 to 2014.

The continuing restrictions include prohibiting washing down sidewalks and driveways with potable water, watering outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes excess runoff, washing cars without using an automatic shut-off nozzle, and operating a fountain without a recirculating water system.

While the state has saved 146 billion gallons of water since June, the state must continue saving water in any way possible, Gomberg said. The

board pledged Wednesday to look into passing even stricter and permanent restrictions in the coming months.

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21 people like this
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2015 at 10:11 am

Mark Dinan is a registered user.

What percentage of water use is agriculture in California? What changes is the agriculture industry making to cut water use?

Not serving water at restaurants is literally a drop in the bucket compared to the huge inefficiencies found in California agriculture. I am no expert in this field, but it would be nice if there was an honest discussion of water, instead of pretending that cities use the majority of water in California. I tore up my backyard and installed pavers & put in efficient toilets. This may be great for my water bill, but in the grand scheme of things it is nothing compared to the water use of dairy farmers, almond growers, and other high impact agricultural industries.

26 people like this
Posted by Waste for just a few
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2015 at 10:32 am

Golf courses are an obscene waste of resources in normal years. They should be closed during droughts. So much land needing so much water, to be used by so very few people.

12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2015 at 11:00 am

What about those of us who have already restricted our water use by as much as we can?

To expect us to reduce by another 20% when I personally saw Palo Alto Utilities flushing water down the street at several locations in my neighborhood in January is not on. When the City flushes our pipes, do they collect that water to use as groundwater? No, they let it flow into the Bay. When Foothill Park lake is kept high, is that fair on us? No. When the duckpond is kept high, is that fair? No.

It is always the same people who are expected to save water, residents, restaurants and hotels? Never farmers, never government departments, and never any talk about getting some collection of gray water.

6 people like this
Posted by it's a matter of views
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 19, 2015 at 11:27 am

It's all a matter of who you are. I think shutting down the water feature in Mitchell Park for kids, a silly way to save water, after all when it's on it's being used and in the hot summer days, used by many. Watering one's lawn? Not being used by many, jus tone. Same with keeping up parks this summer. People who don't golf, will think the golf course is a waste of resources, below with out kids will think play water features are a waste. People who apparently don't eat (or feel they are benefiting from a strong agriculture economy) will think agriculture is the big water waste culprit. All a matter of opinion.

10 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 19, 2015 at 11:56 am

The Palo Alto Golf Course uses 'recycled water' which comes from the Sewage Treatment Plant. This water would not be used for drinking water and household use and would have been dumped into the Bay. It does not come from Yosemite as does our drinking and home use water, and the golf course does not depend on rain. The PA golf course uses a special type of grass that will grow using this water. So the golf course - at least the Palo Alto course is both drought-conscious and money-conscious.

21 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Yet ABAG wants us to add a few thousand more water users, right?

1 person likes this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2015 at 12:30 pm


Yes, everybody knows that ABAG bureaucrats are where babies come from.

5 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Require luxury pool owners to not refill their pools (and eventually, empty them). Do NOT require us homeowners who have worked hard on our valuable landscaping (just over 6,000 sq ft lot, so a medium-size, in my case), to have to destroy it.
Do NOT require cities/municipalities to destroy the public landscaping that has been installed and adds appropriate beauty to our city. Example: Palo Alto planted carpet roses in red and white (to reflect Stanford, I have supposed) at various locations, including Embarcadero Rd, a gateway to the City of Palo Alto. These are not "wasteful." To destroy them WOULD be wasteful of our taxpayer money and lower the landscaping to an unacceptable level.
Start first with all the homes advertised for sale in our local media, especially in Atherton, that picture large homes with large pools with tens of thousands of gallons of water in them. Or - are there two standards at play in this state??
Many of us, as other posters have said, have already been conservative in our water use and are fully informed about the drought, but this should not mean we have to not water our lawns and gardens at all - the city will lose value and look terrible if it comes to that. It should NOT come to that as there are multiple ways to reduce water use in the state that have not yet been implemented.

2 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2015 at 2:47 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

I am with you. Way back in the 80's I replaced the toilets (not part of the Rebate back then) with low use ones, Installed low flow shower and faucets. We severely trimmed our yard usage (allowed things to DIE) and still could not cut a bit 30% from 4 units (the usage at the time of 'cut 30%' Notice). Later CPAU told me the 30% was from the Summer usage base, not the winter use.

Dead Plants do not help Air Quality.
So, just how dead is a 1FR yard supposed to be to meet Sacramento's current edict?
Last year, The back lawn timer was set to 1 minute (to keep the dust down). The plans are on Drip, this still uses 12Units at peak summer just to keep things green, NOT LUSH.
When is PA going to get reclaimed water to the Residences? Plants and Trees are GOD for the Air

3 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm

> What percentage of water use is agriculture in California?

Agriculture uses about 85% of the water in CA, although the percentage seems to go up and down, depending on the source. Cities use about 10%-15%. What's important to keep in mind is that agriculture only adds about 3% to CA's GDP.

> While the state has saved 146 billion gallons of water since June,

What does this mean? Water that is not contained in some way evaporates. So, how much of this 146B gallons actually made its way to homes, or farms? If the water saved was not pumped out of rivers, or dams, it may well have been not used effectively, flowing into the ocean, or evaporating.

2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2015 at 4:08 pm

> The Palo Alto Golf Course uses 'recycled water' which comes from
> the Sewage Treatment Plant.

This is probably not totally true. Some of the water is recycled, and some is from out common supply. It would be nice if all of the water were recycled, tho.

15 people like this
Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2015 at 5:31 pm

The State needs to set new mandatory POPULATION restrictions!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Does anyone know if the city, county or state is offering residents rebates for using reclaimed water for outdoor watering, or for stopping external/yard watering altogether?

Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2015 at 5:38 pm


So you'll be just fine when they kick you out of the state? Or do you feel you're more deserving of water than someone else, or that any "restrictions" shouldn't apply to you because you were here first?

9 people like this
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2015 at 5:54 pm

stanhutchings is a registered user.

during remodel in 2003, I asked for "grey water" diversion system. architect and contractor said, "no way, it's against code" so thank you city hall for contributing to the drought. if code was changed to ENCOURAGE grey water use, we'd all be better off.

6 people like this
Posted by That Guy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2015 at 9:37 pm

Instead of freaking out about toilet efficiency, lawns, golf courses, and how much water is served in restaurants, why don't we solve that problem for good by investing in new solar-powered desalination plants? We live next to a pretty big ocean after all...

2 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2015 at 10:19 pm

Much of the water in our state in being used for agricultural crops in the Central Valley.
The farmers need to cut back their crops now, and the state needs to start limiting the export of these crops to overseas markets.
Grape growing for exported wines should also be limited.

Only essential crops should be allowed.
As financially painful as this would be to the California economy, something has got to give until the drought is over.

We are now in a crisis.

1 person likes this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2015 at 11:43 pm

California's top-ten valued commodities for 2013 are:
Web Link

Milk — $7.6 billion
Almonds — $5.8 billion
Grapes — $5.6 billion
Cattle, Calves — $3.05 billion
Strawberries — $2.2 billion
Walnuts — $1.8 billion
Lettuce — $1.7 billion
Hay — $1.6 billion
Tomatoes — $1.2 billion
Nursery plants— $1.2 billion

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2015 at 12:49 am

Where does all the water used for agriculture really end up? Most of it must either evaporate or go into the ground. The H2O is not destroyed. Does any of it leave California? Evaporation would rain back down in the Sierras. Ground water would be pumped out again or go into the rivers where it would help maintain our ecological minimum flows. I don't know, could the case be made that irrigation water is mostly "recycled"?

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2015 at 1:21 am

> Where does all the water used for agriculture really end up?

Water evaporates, or it finds its way to a creek, river or pond. Water flows downhill, and much of it eventually ends up in the oceans surrounding the continent.

Water that evaporates can go anywhere, as it is not bound to the region/state from whence it evaporated. Where it ends up next is anyone's guess.

Some of the water ends up in the groundwater that fills the aquifers which underlay the earth's surface. Depending on the geology, more, or less, of this water can enter these large storage areas. Water in aquifers can become trapped, or it can flow from higher elevations to lower elevations--sometimes emptying into rivers and creeks.

Some of the water actually ends up in the agricultural products themselves. Juicy tomatoes and watermelons get that way because of the irrigation used in their growth.

Like this comment
Posted by j
a resident of University South
on Mar 20, 2015 at 5:30 am

@That Guy, I agree, desalination may be California's best hope. There are a number of proposed plants in Southern California up to Santa Cruz with a few in existence and one well on its way, more notably, the Carlsbad Desalination Project, Web Link

Here is a sobering account of warming in California and its contribution to the current drought and possible future implications, Web Link

Squabbling over lawns, restaurants and washing cars is pretty lame. Northern California needs to look at what San Diego County is doing as an example of any real solid action.

1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2015 at 3:05 am

Where does the water for the Rinconada swimming pools come from? It should be 100% reclaimed water from Palo Alto's multimillion-dollar sewage treatment plant. They're going to dump chlorine into the swimming pool water so there's no reason not to use it. The golf course water should likewise be 100% recycled water.

1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2015 at 4:15 am

Here are some proposed desalination plants. Nothing near the peninsula.

California should have started thinking about de-sal plants back in the '70s. Build a de-sal plant at Half Moon Bay and pump the output into Crystal Springs reservoir. Palo Alto could pick up some of the construction and operating costs and get some of the water.

Web Link

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