News

Groundwater pumping irks Palo Alto residents

City requires basement-excavation projects to capture water, but not all of it is being reused

When English poet Samuel Coleridge penned his famous line, "Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink," he could have been talking about Palo Alto.

With the start of construction season, thousands of gallons of water have been gushing along city streets this month, the byproduct of basement-excavation projects.

And that's not sitting well with folks who are dutifully taking shorter showers and letting their lawns die of thirst.

"Here we are carrying buckets to our plants and redoing yards and this guy is pouring oceans into the bay from our aquifer," resident Carol Hubenthal wrote to the Weekly, after biking by a property on Webster Street where a basement is being built.

In fact, the outcry has reached such a pitch that City Hall on Monday released an FAQ about groundwater pumping.

"During this time of severe drought, our community is working hard to conserve water. So, when a number of community members observed water pumping from construction sites they wanted to know what is happening," the FAQ states before going on to acknowledge the discharge of water from construction sites into local storm drains.

In the city's defense, officials say, the water is not being lost so much as going to the Bay, where it would have ended up anyway.

"The shallow water aquifer being pumped contributes to the flow of our creeks and to the Bay," the FAQ states. "When the shallow aquifer is pumped from basement construction sites into storm drains, it travels a different path, but ends up in the same place: the lower South Bay. So, the water ... is used to improve the Bay's habitat and ecosystem, whichever pathway it takes."

While that may not satisfy those who are saving water by the pailful, there is a silver lining: This year, the city instituted a requirement that the pumped water be captured and reused, if possible, according to Mike Nafziger, senior engineer with the Public Works department.

"It's a condition of approval now that the city's requiring," said Nafziger, who launched the program last year as a test. "I've always hated that water going to waste. With the drought, it's even more important (to reuse it)."

For any project lowering the water table temporarily, wells must pump the water to tanks, where the sediment settles out, and a pipe or pump then directs the cleaned water to the edge of the site, he explained.

From there, it's up to city crews or others who want the water to take it away. City workers who water trees, sweep the streets and tamp down dust at the landfill are all encouraged to fill their tanks.

Nafziger said the city has spread the word to Stanford University to encourage contractors there to likewise use the extracted water to control dust.

"We're broadcasting that to as many folks as we can," he told the Weekly.

Such "fill-stations" are in place at all three of Palo Alto's active basement construction pumping sites: 1405 Harker Ave., 2133 Webster St. and 1934 Waverley St.

Even neighbors of the properties are welcome to the water; a faucet has been hooked up for the purpose at at least one of three sites where water is being pumped. Because the water is non-potable, however, it's not to be used for drinking water.

Admittedly, officials say, the amount of water being reused is only a fraction of what's being pumped, which can range from 30 to 50 gallons a minute, according to a 2008 staff report.

Still, residents need not worry about harm to the deeper Palo Alto aquifer, which provides emergency drinking water. That is separate from the shallow aquifer affected by basement construction, the FAQ states.

To respond to ongoing concerns about water use, the city has hired a part-time water-waste coordinator. Residents who see water being wasted can contact Martin Ricci at 650-496-6968 or email martin.ricci@cityofpaloalto.org to report leaks or other water waste.

Problems can also be reported through the City's PaloAlto311 mobile app or cityofpaloalto.org/water.

A discussion of the topic has been ongoing on Town Square, the community discussion forum at PaloAltoOnline.com/square.

Related article:

Basement groundwater pumping raises concerns: Experts question safety (Nov 19, 2010)

Comments

13 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 28, 2015 at 10:32 am

The waste of this groundwater is more evidence that the water we need is available. It's just a matter of properly storing it for later use. We let many acre-feet of water flood our streets this past winter during two separate heavy rain events--water which could have been stored and used this summer if authorities planned ahead and a storage infrastructure that better matched our needs.


14 people like this
Posted by water waster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2015 at 10:57 am

just another example of the waste and ill-advised decisions of the city council to keep producing mass construction in palo alto. each decision is a waste of water and by all means lets keep taxing the people--that will solve our water issues. but, we have to keep building and expanding--there certainly isn't any more water usage by over-expanding palo alto. taxes solve all problems.


19 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:11 am

Another symbolic act that's too little, too late.

How about our expensive Utility Staff and Chief Sustainability officer take the lead in lobbying the state to stop Nestle and the other companies from selling CA's water during the drought?

Residential use is a mere drop in the bucket compared to agriculature and commercial use.

Let them do something more useful than killing trees to send us all tose rah-rah and often erroneous mailings.


36 people like this
Posted by YSK
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:45 am

It's NOT a drop in the bucket when you consider that there's 720,010 gallons of water that's gone into the storm drain in the last 10 days just from ONE site. ONE SITE. Add Webster and that other address, triple that figure, and you come up with over TWO MILLION gallons of water wasted from three properties in ten days. TEN DAYS!!!

A 24/7 unmitigated flow of water straight into the storm drain. Precious wasted water so one person can have a basement in their new home construction. Multiply that times 3 and add that 2 more new home sites are about to "come on line,", two more homes cutting into the acuifiers below their properties and we have an unbelievable waste of water that could be used for just about ANYTHING other than drinking. Even that, could possibly be used. I would rather drink ground water that's been cleaned anytime over waste water!

Here's the video:

Web Link


34 people like this
Posted by Mary G
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:52 am

Since the city is asking us to use a large proportion of our limited share of potable water to water the city street trees, maybe the city could use the construction drainage water to drive a tank truck around and water the street trees. Then we could use less potable water.


12 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 28, 2015 at 12:01 pm

YSK, I certainly agree with you about the wasted water.

What irks me to no end is that our ridiculously expensive PA Utilities folks and our new Chief Sustainability Officer and Public Works and Planning employees and consultants should have figured that out BEFORE we all got "irked" and they finally threw us a sop.

I'm really tired of bureaucrats who think non-stop preaching / pr / community outreach solves problems.

I'm also tired of the non-stop construction during a drought. Do they think new workers and new residents never flush the toilet, get a drink of water or wash their hands??

There's a cost to everything.


24 people like this
Posted by Cat Mom Leonorilda
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2015 at 12:02 pm

It's amazing that even in a time of severe drought building contractors have the upper hand and power in this city. Something is gravely wrong with a system that favors these people and allows them to spill off hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and asks its residents to ration. This is truly an upside-down world!


18 people like this
Posted by judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 28, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Would you please read the article? The water being pumped is from a shallow aquifer that flows into the (concrete lined) creeks and into the bay. If it is pumped into the storm drains, it flows - into the bay! How is it being wasted?

Feel free to drive up to the site and use it. One site is being used for people to wash their cars. The city is filling all their street-washing and irrigation trucks from de=watering sites. You can, too.


17 people like this
Posted by YSK
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 28, 2015 at 12:11 pm

It's being wasted once it flows into the bay and becomes salt water. We are in an epic drought. Now is not a good time to have water that would have stayed in place, be drained into the Bay.


28 people like this
Posted by no to status quo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 12:12 pm

During the dewatering, lowering the water table even temporarily can impact adjacent structures and trees and landscaping. Secondly,our area historically is subject to severe subsidence and requires recharging of the acquifer with imported water, especially during critical drought conditions when there is no rainfall and natural recharging. And we can see, trees are dying all over Palo Alto. Regarding the new parking and transportation managers in the budget, we need new policies first before we hire anybody or they are likely to do more harm. We need to break the status quo in Palo Alto not perpetuate it.


21 people like this
Posted by Good Neighbors Don't Dewater
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 28, 2015 at 1:04 pm

I'm glad I don't live in the house next door. Dewatering affects nearby property soils.

This shouldn't be allowed for a lot of good reasons--with or without drought.


15 people like this
Posted by Jean
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 28, 2015 at 1:17 pm

It is not just water being pumped out of basements that is being wasted, the City itself is flushing the water lines. On April 19th the City decided to flush out the water lines at the cul-de-sac end of Sutherland Drive and gallons of water came gushing down my street straight into the storm drain and out into the Bay. I spoke to a City employee who was in charge of this flushing program.

I wrote a letter about this which was printed in the Post. Several residents wrote to me afterwards and told me the City wastes 8% - 15% of all water used in the City. It is time Palo Alto built a good sized water recycling plant so this drinkable water is not flushed out into the Bay and wasted, and can be used again.


5 people like this
Posted by YSK
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm

I've been told by two different life long Palo Altans that Palo Alto has some sort of desalination plant out by the Baylands.

Does anyone know this to be true?

I was also told that the issue of building new basements for the McMansions is a "political" issue and one that Palo Alto won't touch.


4 people like this
Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Can't the water from the "shallow" aquifer be used to refill the deep aquifers?

I don't know. Anyone one have knowledge of this?


7 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 28, 2015 at 2:52 pm

@YSK:

There is no desalination plant in the SF Bay wetlands. What they are incorrectly referring to is the Regional Water Quality Control Plant, a sewage treatment plant.

Web Link


16 people like this
Posted by Bill Glazier
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm

This is a very weak FAQ. It basically says 'we approved it - it does not make too much of a difference'. Even the comment referenced in the article above about how the ground water just heads out to the Bay has been eliminated from the City FAQ.

What I want to know is how many trucks the City has to be able to reuse this water? The City Utility Department worker I met with who was there when the NBC News truck was filming at Webster Street said to me he had an 'unending' need for non-potable water, and he could have three trucks constantly filling and refilling to meet his needs over at the landfill. He said and I quote - "if we do not have reused water, we use fresh water from Hetch Hetchy." There you have it - every gallon they do not reuse at each of these three properties means a gallon of fresh water wasted. That does not include the parks, golf course, schools, and other public spaces that can use this water in Palo Alto and other towns up and down the peninsula.

I am going to call Mike Nofziger and ask him for more details. I want to hear his detailed plan for reusing this water. It has to be more than Press releases, emails, and web postings.

Jerry Brown just upped the fine to $10,000 per day for water wasters. That may catch some attention. But I am afraid now that the TV camera's have arrived, it is only a matter of days before the Governor's office gets wind of this, and then it gets very ugly. The Chronicle does a special report 'Wealthy Palo Alto Wastes 1M Gallons of Water a Week to Build Extravagant Basements, Claims It Has No Effect on Anyone, and They Should Be Left Alone to Do As They Wish'. Our city experts will claim that 'we believe that pumping of tens of millions of gallons from our acquire will have no demonstrable effect', right after the Governor and his staff has dealt with all the wells in the Central Valley going dry.

The City will not be winning any awards for this. It is time to come up with a serious plan to either reuse this water, or stop dewatering until such time as the drought has ended.



20 people like this
Posted by JRK
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2015 at 5:12 pm

"The shallow water aquifer being pumped contributes to the flow of our creeks and to the Bay," the FAQ states. "When the shallow aquifer is pumped from basement construction sites into storm drains, it travels a different path, but ends up in the same place: the lower South Bay. So, the water ... is used to improve the Bay's habitat and ecosystem, whichever pathway it takes."

What is lost in the FAQ statement by the city are two very important facts.
First the water provides valuable ecosystem services as it travels naturally towards the streams. Second, the water provides valuable services for the stream itself that is lost when it is pumped into the storm drain.

Bottom Line - even if the water is non-potable and is in the "shallow aquifer" it does a whole lot more ecosystem good when left to flow naturally than if pumped into a storm drain!

The city's argument in the FAQ is really weak and it really needs to take a much broader and holistic view of what they are permitting here.


17 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 28, 2015 at 5:14 pm

There are a lot of misconceptions about water and the aquifer from people on this thread that may not be aware of studies of the local san francisquito creek system. They are online. Go read them.

The shallow aquifer and creek are directly connected. This water is NOT wasted. It is identical to the water flowing out the creek. (which I point out nobody complains about). In fact, some amount of water flow is needed to maintain the marshes, the wildlife and fish.

The amount pumped is a small fraction of the water that is already flowing in the creek. You see, the pumping is essentially going from the creek -> aquifer ->site->storm drain -> creek. There is no loss of water.

In fact, a typical winter storm would send FAR more water out to sea than these construction sites.

If people are upset about not putting this water to good use, they should be equally happy to walk over to the creek with a bucket, and get the water out of the creek. Same water. same system.

I don't think it is productive or accurate to discuss water "waste" unless you consider the creek a waste.

However, I think harvesting this water is perfectly fine also. By all means, get a bucket, connect a hose, put it on your lawn. It all flows back to the groundwater and the same creek anyhow. But complaining about it is a little silly. They are literally moving water a few hundred yards from the creek back to the creek.


17 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 28, 2015 at 5:17 pm

The storm drain flows into the creek not far down-stream of the construction site. Less than a mile from the construction site.


14 people like this
Posted by JD
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2015 at 5:36 pm

The water in the shallow aquifer provides moisture for plants and trees and the needed moisture support for the homes built on these clay soils.

Our soils have a high clay component and are subject to consolidation, compaction, and desiccation.
Which means drying out and shrinkage.

We only one real stream in Palo Alto (San Francisquito) which can allow some natural recharge of the water table. The other "creeks" which run through the city (on the East side of El Camino), are actually engineered flood channels with concrete bottoms and sides - so no recharge can occur.

The recharge (replenishment) of our shallow and deeper aquifers comes primarily from rain activity in the hills above Palo Alto, and insignificantly through landscape irrigation. Any small lakes above (upgradient) of Palo Alto also allow natural recharge to our shallow aquifers. Recharge to the groundwater occurs more quickly in slower moving streams with natural gravelly bottoms.


22 people like this
Posted by JD
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2015 at 5:47 pm

A resident who lived in the Community Center area spoke to our city council about 7 years ago. He said the trees on his property were doing poorly so he called a licensed arborist to look at them. The arborist told him to water the trees because they were suffering from drought stress. He got really angry at council because he said that he shouldn't have to water mature trees when a home directly across the street from him was pumping out a huge volume of groundwater, and had been for more than 6 months.

He had a valid point.


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Nature will out. If these basements aren't thoroughly sealed, they'll be too wet to use. If they are sealed, the house will try to float like a boat when the rains return, until something cracks, after which they'll be too wet to use.

Nature is too dumb to be impressed by hubris and money.


15 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 28, 2015 at 7:27 pm

The current groundwater is about 11.5' down, which is very typical for this time of year. Nothing unusual about it. It can vary 2-3' throughout the season.

This dewatering project is likely impacting local aquifer by less than a few inches even a short distance from the building site. It is not affecting trees. That is just a myth. The tree roots (if they reach the aquifer at all) seek out oxygen - which in our clay soil means they grow closer to the surface. (the aquifer is in a clay-sand layer about 20' down)

At most the trees immediately adjacent to the pumps may be slightly affected if their roots reach the clay-sand layer (which would be extremely deep for most trees), rather a much bigger effect is from the lack of surface rain that we have had this year.

You can use the free water from the site to water nearby trees if it makes you happy. But keep in mind that:

- the aquifer is fine this year
- the surface of tree roots is probably missing rain
- the dewatering is very unlikely to be affecting anything.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:14 pm

It should be noted that the local tv stations have also been very interested in this pumping. We have had reporters showing the whole of the Bay Area our pumping of the aquifers and water going into the Bay. If anyone wants to come and claim the water, according to tv, they can come and fill tankers and use it for whatever provided it is not for drinking.


29 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 29, 2015 at 7:24 am

mauricio is a registered user.

The city should have harvested every construction site pumping out water and used that water to water city parks and trees.


12 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 29, 2015 at 8:50 am

Guess the city needs to hire more expensive pr people to tell us this really isn't a problem and to guilt trip us into conserving more so they can raise our rates because we're not using enough.


18 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 29, 2015 at 9:21 am

It makes me angry that I am hauling buckets of water outside to water my plants, I get a notice in the mail about increasing utility taxes, and there are write-ups about fines for overwatering. All of this while huge amounts of water are running down the streets.

If someone needs to haul water out of their construction site then they should pay for a tanker truck that the water is put into so it can be redirected to the city parks.

My front area is starting to sink in front near the water meter in the ground - I think that this sinking could damage the sewage line that goes to the street. If the sewage line gets damaged then the city is going to pay for that because they are contributing to the overall reduction in the ground water table.


21 people like this
Posted by JD
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:06 am

The amount of water withdrawn from these single family basement construction sites is so much that the City would have to put percolation ponds in Jordan, Rinconada, or Mitchell Park to allow the water to seep back into the soil where it belongs.

This probably would not help stop any localized subsidence (compaction), desiccation, or soil consolidation (shrinkage) from occurring.

Since we are already in severe drought, and must reduce the use of our imported water, we really don't know what the combined longterm effects will be from quickly vacuuming this amount of water out so fast.

Homes in the other parts of the US suffered expensive fracturing of their foundations and basements after prolonged drought.

Since we are in a drought emergency, this would be a good time for the city issue an emergency ban on dewatering permits for these single family residential basements. When we are out of drought, they can consider allowing it into their Green Building Code again.


13 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:21 am

Thank you Misconceptions for articulating the SCIENCE behind what's going on. The knee-jerk, uninformed comments spewing forth is just a bunch of nosy neighbors who think the City is ineffective, corrupt, uninformed etc. Everyone's looking to point fingers and blame someone when both the city, contractors and owners are trying to do the right thing. No one's evil, no one's trying to take your water and "waste" it. Why would they do that? How's it in their best interest to "waste" water. This is water that's flowing into the bay and they're diverting it a few feet so they can build. You may not like that there's a house going there, you may not like their design, you may not like any change whatsoever in your neighborhood, but they have a right to build as long as they follow the rules. Needless to say, if you were trying to improve your house and wanted to build a basement you wouldn't want your neighbors telling you what you can and can't do based on misunderstanding of the issue. No one's evil here. Take a deep breath and stop trying to lay blame.


23 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Those living nearby downstream from groundwater pumping may have to increase watering their trees and shrubs that would normally get much of their water from the shallow aquifer.

It's like putting a large rock in a stream. The area behind it gets less water until the stream "evens out." The porosity of the soil and resistance to flow affect the distance of this evening out.

A hydrologist might be able to calculate the amount of the reduction nearby. In that case, the dewatering should be used to water downstream properties at the expense of the dewaterer.


24 people like this
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 29, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

I can't help wondering--why do people building enormous new houses need basements? (I know, a rhetorical question.) How difficult would it be for the city to put a moratorium on basement building during times of drought?


12 people like this
Posted by Greg Bell
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:34 pm

What is the affect of basement pumping on trees near the new construction? If a basement is pumped to a depth of 12-15 feet. Some tree roots may be left dry. pls advise Greg Bell


9 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2015 at 6:13 am

A few quick notes:

Pumping water from an aquifer does not immediately lead to subsidence. Keep in mind that a project of this nature affects the city wide water levels by about 1/100th of an inch after a year of pumping.

And they are not pumping from the sand aquifer layer, so subsidence is just not realistic.


As for tree roots - most are in the range of 2-10' down.

There is no groundwater there. It's surface water they trap. Otherwise trees wouldn't grow on hills or areas with deep aquifer (and we can see that clearly they do grow fine without shallow groundwater)

The construction is probably looking at a 12 - 15' hole with the water starting to show hydrostatic pressure (seepage) at 12', very little. More water is under more seepage as you go down to 15'. This is still in a clay layer which doesn't transmit much water. If the pumping is removing water that is 5' below the tree roots I have a hard time imagining how it could impact the trees.

And I think this was discussed in past city meetings and studied. Cannot recall or I would link.

So the only real issue is that we have an opportunity to get some free irrigation water. And we should, as a community, take it. But calls to outlaw basements are unjustified. I think the site has a responsibility that is to provide hookup to fill trucks. I noticed some inventive neighbor put a catch basin and pump to grab some water for his lawn. Clever. Need more of this, and less. 'Burn the witch'!


11 people like this
Posted by Expert
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2015 at 7:09 am

Stand down neighbors.

This is simple very shallow de-watering that permits construction of a basement. Once the basement is complete (and the building heavy enough so not to float out of the ground) the pump is shut off.

The City of Palo Alto does not permit active de-watering of a building to keep a basement dry (with a very few exceptions...like City Hall).

COPA does not permit active pumping of basements because our infrastructure is overtaxed and we (taxpayers) have not funded-long term upgrades to the stormwater system. As a result, COPA cannot permit additional non-stormwater surcharge presented by active sump pumps. If you want a dry basement, then you need to build a waterproof boat around the structure. Given the high cost of construction and real estate in PA, the added cost of the waterproofing is typically no big deal.

The water pumped during de-watering operations is clarified in settling tanks prior to being delivered to the storm drain system.

So, besides the annoyance of seeing the de-watering system pipes, its not really such a horrible thing.


11 people like this
Posted by no to status quo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Lots of clarifying information from Expert and Misconceptions regarding
dewatering which can average about 6-8 million gallons of water from a single site.
"This is simple very shallow dewatering"
"The construction is probably looking at a 12 to 15'hole"
"The current groundwater is at about 11.5 ft down"
"This is still in a clay area which doesn't transmit much water"
"The acquifer is fine this year"
"Pumping from an acquifer does not immediately lead to subsidence"

As of April 1, 2015 the Water Tracker from the SCV Water District says
"Total groundwater storage at the end of 2015 is predicted to drop to the Critical Stage if dry conditions continue and no reduction measures are implemented". We depend on imported water to recharge the acquifer. The combined State and Federal allocation for 2015 is 14% less than 2014. The
District is calling for reduction of water use by 30% compared to 2013 whereas the first two months of this year we were down 4%.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mizu
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 30, 2015 at 3:53 pm

The issue is very significant for the Santa Clara Valley Water District because about 1/2 of the water they supply comes from treated groundwater. If similar dewatering were occurring in their service area I'm pretty sure they would have some issue with it.

On the other hand, in Palo Alto almost none of our drinking water supply comes from groundwater. We rely mostly on Hetch Hetchy water delivered by Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation District. We do have several wells which can be used in emergency situations if this supply becomes disrupted, but these wells are not tapped on an ongoing basis.

As other have pointed out the dewatering in Palo Alto only affects the immediate area. It causes no harm to the aquifers that the Santa Clara Valley Water District wells draw from.


2 people like this
Posted by Mizu
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 30, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Like Long Term Resident, I would also like to thank Misconceptions for bringing science and facts in this discussion. Many of the comments I have been reading in this discussion and the other groundwater discussion are based on emotion and misinformation. I understand people having strong feelings about this issue, but we should not let that stand in the way reality.


7 people like this
Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Apr 30, 2015 at 5:44 pm

The following engineering memo was prepared by EIP Associates for the Palo Alto Planning Commission in 2004. At the time, changes to municipal code re: basements in Palo Alto were being considered. The memo speaks to all of the technical concerns being discussed in this thread.

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by no to status quo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2015 at 7:13 pm

I am familiar with the EIP report.It is good to get this type of information out there to inform the discussion. It clearly states the risk to adjacent properties during the dewatering process. It also references
the importance of the SCVWD recharging of the acquifer with the use of imported water following the severe subsidence in the period up to the
late 1960's which I believe in the Palo Alto area at the northern end
was about 1-2 feet total, much more in San Jose. The EIP report was written in early 2004. We are in 2015 in the third year of extreme, unprecedented drought. The SCVWD allocation of Federal and State water has been cut 14% for 2015 compared to 2014. The report also points out in a technical discussion that with a series of acquifers such as we have, it can be
complicated and the shallow and deep acquifers can be linked due to permeability of soils or artificially through wells or along pilings the report states.


7 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Hi No to Status Quo,

I agree that the relationships here are complex.

However, most of the information really is summarized in two measurements:

-shallow aquifer levels
- local subsidence

I know the local groundwater level. It is no different than years past. While SCVWD may have some concerns about deep water storage, it just is not a problem here. By the time water gets to us on its way to the bay, the shallow water is just not that different from flows through groundwater or creek or storm sewer to the creek.

No neighbor has reported local subsidence, and I suspect if they did, the builder would address it immediately. Nobody wants the liability of sinking a neighbors house.


Let's grab this water while we can, as it is convenient. And that is less water we need to import from Hetch Hetchy.

But I don't see it as waste; only as opportunity.


3 people like this
Posted by Contrarian
a resident of University South
on Apr 30, 2015 at 9:08 pm

"The memo speaks to all of the technical concerns being discussed in this thread."

Fine, but what speaks to the moral issues of squandering water wholesale during a drought?


7 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2015 at 9:23 pm

How is this water "squandered"?

This water and a hundred times more flows through the shallow aquifer every day out to the bay.

How is it squandered?

There is just simply no moral issue. Just because you see a small fraction run through a pipe does not change the massive, steady movement beneath your feet everyday which you don't see.

You are frustrated at what you see with little perspective on how this water system works. That "squandered" water was heading for the bay, like it or not.

Along with the water flowing under your own property. Do you consider that squandered ?


3 people like this
Posted by Contrarian
a resident of University South
on May 1, 2015 at 10:45 am

"This water and a hundred times more flows through the shallow aquifer every day out to the bay."

Wholly moly! Somebody hit a nerve spot on. How many gallons are you pumping daily, sir/madam?

Look: an even larger amount of water flows down the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers every day out to the bay. An even larger even larger amount would flow if Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, Hetch-Hetchy, Don Pedro, the California Aqueduct, and other systems didn't divert it into our water taps.

So you think it is totally OK to put the 'ol hose in the gutter and turn the tap on full, because that water was on its way to the bay anyway, right?


6 people like this
Posted by Expert
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 1, 2015 at 11:55 am

Few more thoughts:

Yes we are in a drought and every drop counts. Not arguing this point. What I was pointing out was this is not potable water and it typically just moves down slope with millions upon millions of gallons of water each day. The extracted amount is very small and has an imperceptible effect on the total shallow water transport. The water extracted finds its way to the bay through the water treatment process. So, with regard to the Bay, the extracted water is returned to the Bay. No harm here.

With regard to effects on trees, tree roots do not extend into saturated soils (except for very specific trees such as mangroves). Tree roots work best where there is open pores in the soil. Which is why arborists don't recommend lots of foot traffic around tree drip zones. If you've ever seen a toppled redwood tree, you get a sense of how far laterally and how shallow tree roots typically grow. So, again, it is not likely that temporary dewatering activities, in shallow ground water systems, will harm a typical tree.

My last thought has to do with addressing the instinct to jump to a conclusion without the facts. Look, if you see the pipes and gushing water, you're first instinct is to say "HEY...we are in a drought and this is wasteful". Which, on the surface, appears to be the case. However, with a few more facts in hand, you can change your thinking to understand what is happening is not harmful to the aquifer, not harmful to trees, and will not create settlement issues for the neighborhood.

In fact, since the basement will require no sump pump to remain water tight, there will be no need for a permanently running sump pump to keep the basement dry. That's one less electric appliance consuming power (smaller carbon footprint) and a lot less water being continuously pumped into our already overtaxed storm water system.


2 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 1, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

For those for whom making use of this water is important, I've recently started RainDance, a service that trucks recycled water from PA's H20 Treatment Plant to homes & businesses in order to irrigate landscapes & help meet imminent state-mandated 24% reductions in potable water use.

RainDance can access and fill our truck up with this pumped groundwater if you'd like us to irrigate your yard with it. Keep in mind, though, that whereas we can fill up our 2000-gallon truck in 4 minutes at the treatment plant, filling up with this pumped groundwater will probably take 45-60 minutes.

If interested, call 650-935-LAWN or email RainDanceLawnWatering@Gmail.com


4 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on May 1, 2015 at 5:08 pm

@Contrarian writes:"Wholly moly! Somebody hit a nerve spot on. How many gallons are you pumping daily, sir/madam?"

I am not pumping anything. I am simply describing the functioning of the shallow groundwater.

It is everywhere, and flowing to the bay. This is not meant to be a surprising statement.

Is this not previously understood?


1 person likes this
Posted by Contrarian
a resident of University South
on May 1, 2015 at 6:01 pm

So you think it's OK to put the 'ol garden hose in the gutter and turn the tap on full, because that water was on its way to the bay anyway?


6 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on May 1, 2015 at 6:25 pm

"So you think it's OK to put the 'ol garden hose in the gutter and turn the tap on full, because that water was on its way to the bay anyway?"


NO. My garden hose is treated drinking water from hetch hetchy. I would NOT turn this on in the gutter.


Have you read the posts above? Dewatering groundwater ( which is already on its way to the bay), and putting it in the storm sewer to the Bay is okay by me. It was going there anyhow.

Along with hundreds times more that you don't see, but apparently were happy to ignore because you cannot see it.

I also think we should use this water for irrigation where possible.

But it doesn't seem to be surprising or upsetting or worthy of a witch hunt.


3 people like this
Posted by Contrarian
a resident of University South
on May 1, 2015 at 6:49 pm

"Have you read the posts above? Dewatering groundwater ( which is already on its way to the bay), and putting it in the storm sewer to the Bay is okay by me. It was going there anyhow."

Whoa there, dud(ett)e. Kill the shrill.

You can't have it both ways, Clyde. To the bay is where Hetch Hetchy water was going anyhow. So why not by way of the hose and gutter, like that other water on its way to the bay?

Why privilege the Hetch Hetchy fluid and not our homewater?


7 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on May 2, 2015 at 6:08 am

If you are trying to draw a moral equivalence between filtered processed drinking water and dewatered groundwater, I'm not taking the bait,

Value-wise the groundwater is similar to the processed output of our sewer treatment plant which goes also into the Bay.

I think your name-calling outrage is misplaced.

Are you outraged by sewer plant outflows to the bay? That is actually a problem to solve..... Some other day.

But , hey - good talk. To the others reading the thread, there is a lot more involved in local aquifers than meets the eye. It is an interesting subject if you have time to dig into it.

Ciao.


4 people like this
Posted by Asher Waldfogel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2015 at 7:24 am

The EIP study is a good starting point for discussion even though it studiously avoids two key questions: what’s the actual flow rate through the surface aquifer* and whether smart civil engineers have thought of ways to build basements without pumping water to the street.

The EIP study argues that a few projects withdrawing 1.98 acre-feet per day from the surface aquifer don’t matter. 1.98AF per day is 25,860 CCF per month: enough water to landscape 1,500 average homes in Palo Alto. If every home in Palo Alto irrigated from the surface aquifer, that would be the equivalent of only 20 basement projects. No problem, right?

The answer is we don’t know. So what should happen?

1. Put meters on construction dewatering with the same rates and policies as other wells
2. Study what the replacement flow level in the surface aquifer really is
3. Study whether there are cost-effective construction alternatives to pumping water into the storm drain
4. Study the impact on water rates if homeowners materially substitute recycled or surface aquifer water for irrigation

*No published information about the sub basin’s water budget has been found, so any attempt to predict how quickly the water would be replaced through recharge would be speculative. p6 of the EIP study.


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Posted by LowFlowGardener
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2015 at 8:34 am

Hi Asher,

You might want to check your numbers - I thought this site was estimated at 50g/min, which would be 0.2 af/day, -- not 1.98 af/day.

I think that means the water from this one project would irrigate about 100 yards. Useful if we could capture it, but the distribution is a problem, as homeowners are not plumbed for it.

You call for a study on water rates if homeowners substitute recycles or surface aquifer.

Not sure if local groundwater would sustain all homeowners landscape needs, but it is an interesting idea. Recycled water is even more interesting - we already have it. Sort of.

It is interesting to note that the RWQCP (sewer plant) processes 22Mgal/day, or about 29,000 ccf/day.

That is a lot of water. They currently distribute some of through "Purple Pipes" to golf courses and other places that want it. Most however, goes to the bay. Is there any way that residents can get access to this for landscape purposes? Is this plumbed through residential areas?

Or would it be cheaper to filter it to drinking-water quality, and push it back through the pipes we use for water supply? (for a moment, disregarding some people's 'ick' factor reaction...)




1 person likes this
Posted by Asher Waldfogel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2015 at 9:15 am

@LFG

1.98 AF per day is the number on page 5 of the EIP study. We don't have any actual numbers from projects so I think it's best to baseline off the study numbers. I agree with your point that trying to capture water from individual projects is hard; it's better to address the policy and pricing question of extracting water from the surface aquifer than the tactical question if we can use construction water.

We do have recycled water available at the treatment plant that's also hard to access. There's one local business trying to solve that problem for irrigation. It's unlikely that filtering to drinking quality will turn out to be cost-effective and the cost of adding purple pipes to the whole city is prohibitive. There's also an ongoing cost that we'd need to pump recycled water uphill to users. Individual homeowners digging shallow wells for irrigation is likely to be cost-effective if we think it's good policy.

If hypothetically everyone in water tier 2 (above 6CCF per month) either stops irrigating or starts using recycled or well water, then tier 1 prices will need to go up to cover system fixed costs. That's why we should study the effects on rates.


1 person likes this
Posted by LowFlowGardener
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2015 at 9:44 am

I think there are restrictions that prevent shallow-aquifer wells from SCVWD - but if that were solved, could the recycled water treatment plant water be pumped uphill to the creek/lake lagunitas/searsville and be used to recharge the shallow aquifer?

Or is this even needed? Does SCVWD allow recharging groundwater with wastewater recycled?

It sounds like the issue isn't available water, it is availability of cheap water. Costs of reprocessing wastewater are being looked at in City of San Jose, and a few other places. The good part about this is that you keep water users in the system, and use their rate fees to develop the infrastructure. Pushing people to local wells is a good idea, but reusing water may be even better. Can we use the shallow aquifer as a delivery mechanism to these homeowners?




3 people like this
Posted by Mizu
a resident of Ventura
on May 2, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Please keep in mind that fresh water (be it groundwater, surface runoff, or water pollution control plant discharges)
entering the southern parts of the San Francisco Bay is not "wasted" as some people want to believe. It is important for the health of the bay's ecosystems. The marshlands of the bay provide habitat for many species, including the California Clapper Rail, which is on the endangered species list.


5 people like this
Posted by Contrarian
a resident of University South
on May 2, 2015 at 6:25 pm

"If you are trying to draw a moral equivalence between filtered processed drinking water and dewatered groundwater, I'm not taking the bait."

No bait on that hook, just knowledge.

Did you know that our "filtered processed drinking water" is filtered through sand? No? The groundwater being wasted in dewatering has been thusly filtered to a much higher degree than the water in your tap. Unless it's pumped from downstream of one of our infamous industrial sites, it is quite potable. Consider it organic free range water. Wasting it is a mortal sin.

"Value-wise the groundwater is similar to the processed output of our sewer treatment plant which goes also into the Bay."

Better. It has no pharmaceutical residues or added NaCl. See also the above.

"I think your name-calling outrage is misplaced."

It might be if it really was. Lighten up. Have a glass of water.


10 people like this
Posted by Kevin Ohlson
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 19, 2015 at 11:51 am

I believe the city has a restriction on private wells, and I agree with their logic on this. What is at odds with this restriction is draining water for construction somewhat directly into the creeks. If there is water 15 feet underground on your property, why can't this be used for personal landscape irrigation purposes? I am not suggesting that deep wells be used for this. But the city city says pumping water from shallow depths has no adverse affect, and ultimately flows into the creeks and Bay. How come residents can't pump shallow-well water out to irrigate lawn and garden before sending it back on its way to the Bay? Not every property will have shallow water, but for those who do it could be win-win-win-win: landscape water, reduced use of potable water, expanded employment for suppliers, expanded tax revenue for city permits.


39 people like this
Posted by Billions and Billions of Gallons
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 19, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Is there any reason why the owner of the monstrous one-acre property on Waverley Oaks was allowed to pump ground water down Bryant and into a storm drain on Cal Ave for TWO WHOLE YEARS?

This was a waste of billions of gallons of water--maybe trillions!


13 people like this
Posted by CeCi Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 19, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Could someone help me understand why Palo Alto is allowing the building of basements in south Palo Alto's flood plain. Although we are in the middle of a thousand year drought, this is supposed to be an El Nino year, for real; there should be excess rain next winter.
I remember when the homes in south Palo Alto were required to be raised when remodeled; I see all those homes on Ross which were elevated twenty five years ago. So why the change in policy in Palo Alto? What Does NFIP say about building a basement in a flood zone?


2 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

Billions & Billions of Gallons - it's about 16M gallons/year = 21,000 CCF (1 CCF = 748 gallons). Average PA single-family home uses 200-250 CCF/year, so that's ~100 homes' worth of annual usage.

It's be a lot cooler if it was at least all fed into the creek so we could go river rafting.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 19, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@CeCi Kettendorf - there still are no basements allowed in the flood zone, the houses building basements are outside the boundary.

@Chris - how's your watering business? it seems like a good idea, especially as it as the summer has been heating up.


13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm

"If there is water 15 feet underground on your property, why can't this be used for personal landscape irrigation purposes?"

Because city hall logic says so. You cannot pump ground water to use it; you can only pump ground water in order to discard it.


1 person likes this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 19, 2015 at 10:11 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Curmudgeon- You can pump it to use it, you just have to meter your well and pay for it. Not sure why dumping is free when using isn't.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2015 at 10:27 pm

"Not sure why dumping is free when using isn't."

No good reason, it's city hall logic.


5 people like this
Posted by Use What is Available
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2015 at 11:02 pm

I know the debate has gone on for a while now, but here is what is clear:

1) We are in a drought and being told to not water our landscaping with potable water. This means our landscaping, fruit trees, and vegetable plants suffer/die.

2) Construction projects are pumping perfectly good water down the storm drains that could be collected and used for irrigating yards. Whether or not this water would have ended up in the bay anyway is irrelevant.

3) The City continues to approve groundwater pumping for basements and swimming pools, sending usable irrigation to the Bay rather than requiring it be used for irrigation before it inevitably ends up in the Bay (apparently).

Based on this, it is stupid to send this pumped groundwater straight to the Bay when it could be collected and used for irrigation, before it inevitably ends up in the Bay through natural flows.


4 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 20, 2015 at 12:14 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Use What is Available - you say it could be collected, but the reality is there is no mechanism to collect and redistribute it, and unless we go a few more years without rain, it isn't worth it.

@Curmudgeon - I like to dump on city hall too, but the well metering is regulated "upstream" from palo alto, so not their fault.


Like this comment
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jun 20, 2015 at 12:36 am

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

@Slow Down: Of course there is a mechanism, it's called collection barrels and water trucks. Or collection barrels that are made available to residents to come and pick up.

Expecting every interested citizen to come with their own barrel, collect until full, and then haul home is a non-starter. Hiring inexpensive labor to do it and distribute it is a no-brainer.

We can pay the utilities extra because their revenue is down, or we can pay to have our lawns and gardens watered with pumped groundwater. I'll choose the latter.


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Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jun 20, 2015 at 12:37 am

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

Sorry: "Use What is Available" = "Be Kind PA."


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 20, 2015 at 11:54 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Be Kind PA - that sounds a little silly to me, but no one is stopping you from hiring some inexpensive silicon valley labor, and buying some barrels if you really think that is realistic. Good luck, but you might want to check on the actual price of water before you get started.


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Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jun 20, 2015 at 7:09 pm

@Slow Down:

I'm pretty sure I said "Expecting every interested citizen to come with their own barrel, collect until full, and then haul home is a non-starter." Centralizing this effort, however, where someone need only "move the hose to the next barrel" periodically, would be more efficient.

And your statement was that there was no mechanism to collect the water, and I proposed one. Now you state it's not cost-effective. Do you have a positive suggestion, or just live to tear down others?

You seem to miss the point. It's not all about money, it's about a diminishing resource being wasted (yes, "wasted," because it could be watering yards before being returned to the ground).

Constructive ideas beat chronic "can't be done" attitudes all day long. Maybe you should look to be constructive instead of negative? How do you propose we use available resources rather than losing (collectively) hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars worth of landscaping while being conserving potable water?

Thanks for your help!


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2015 at 9:56 pm

"@Curmudgeon - I like to dump on city hall too, but the well metering is regulated "upstream" from palo alto, so not their fault."

pls explain.


3 people like this
Posted by PalyGrad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 20, 2015 at 10:06 pm

Curmudgeon,

A permit from the Santa Clara Valley Water District is required before digging a well:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by HR
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 20, 2015 at 10:22 pm

The way I read it is that a hand dug well under twelve feet deep is perfectly fine since it only uses the top water. Perfect for watering our yards and washing our driveways.
When the city allows that, I will believe the line they are feeding us.


2 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 20, 2015 at 10:57 pm

@BeKind misses a key point:"You seem to miss the point. It's not all about money"


But it IS exactly about money. There is an enormous amount of water that need only be desalinated from the ocean. That costs money.

So now that we have established that water and money ARE interchangeable, the rest of the discussion is whether various schemes are more or less cost effective.

Fresh water from Sierra's happens to be cheap but not plentiful; pumping purifying and delivery all incur costs. Cheaper than desalinization.

Your bucket-brigade scheme is probably more expensive than desalinization which at $2000 /acre-foot of water is just over 2x the cost of water district wholesale water.

So pickup a bucket and knock yourself out distributing by hand; but waste your own time and money. Not ours. Water is money, and you are free to waste yours.

All water schemes should be evaluated on an equal basis: $/acre-foot.

Water is money.


3 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jun 21, 2015 at 12:09 am

@Misconceptions:

>> Your bucket-brigade scheme is probably more expensive than desalinization which at $2000 /acre-foot of water is just over 2x the cost of water district wholesale water.

Probably? Thanks for acknowledging that you have no clue what you are talking about. Bucket-brigade? Obviously that's not what I said, so I guess you aren't capable of having an intelligent conversation.

>> So pickup a bucket and knock yourself out distributing by hand; but waste your own time and money. Not ours. Water is money, and you are free to waste yours.

WOW, third time I have to say this: Centralize the effort because individual citizens with buckets is a NON-STARTER. You're STILL not getting the concept of economies of scale. Keep trying, maybe eventually you'll get it.

>> All water schemes should be evaluated on an equal basis: $/acre-foot.

Sure, as long as there is plenty of money available to all. But that's not where we are, so it sounds like you think water should be monetized, so rich people get plenty and poor people have little or none.

>> Water is money.

No, water is water. See above - monetizing a critical resource is not the action of a fair, democratic society. I sense the need to be very clear: You can drink water, you cannot drink money.

Water to belongs to all of us, not just the stupid rich that think they are above everyone else and can therefore waste a critical resource.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 21, 2015 at 12:50 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Curmudgeon - It is the Santa Clara Valley Water District that permits wells, and set the rules around metering, not the city.


3 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 21, 2015 at 7:31 am

@BeKind writes a lot of things I did not say :"...it sounds like you think water should be monetized, so rich people get plenty and poor people have little or none."


Evaluating water distribution schemes on any metric (emotion, moral absolutism,etc) other than cost is likely to fail. Monetizing water is simply the only fair way to evaluate schemes of sourcing water.

Such schemes must be compares to the infinite water solution of desalinization . It sets a ceiling on price. Any scheme that casts more than $2000/AF can be rejected.

The whole point of evaluating water costs is to allow us to use economics to allocate a scarce resource.

It has nothing to do with rich or poor consumers. In fact, using inefficient water sourcing schemes hurts the poor more than the rich. Interchanging water for money is the basis of economic analysis, and efficient use of a resource.


As to the specifics of your proposal: manning a hose and bucket scheme at minimum wage $10/hr use a hose of 5g/min and assuming 55g barrel movement around town takes average of 10 minutes per user. That prices out at about 21minutes/55g labor, or about $3/55gal, or 6cents/gal. This is about $50/CCF or $20k/af

Compared to Palo Residential rates of $5/CCF, your scheme is about 10x more expensive than residential water rates or 10x more expensive than bulk desalinization.

Now let's talk about rich or poor users - if you ask poor people to follow your scheme, you are robbing them of their time and money compared to economically viable alternatives.

Water is money, and when that point is overlooked it is often the poor who get screwed.

That is why economics are important to solve our water problems.


6 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 21, 2015 at 10:50 am

What irks me is ignorant. If you are building a house with added basement, water needs to be evacuated in order to secure the foundation as a primary safety concern focal point!

Now as the water is being drained, it is all going to the wetlands which is badly needed due to 4 years of drought. Study the situation and understand the big picture.


20 people like this
Posted by Guess Who
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2015 at 5:40 pm

The owner of the very large property with a huge mansion on it at the end of Waverley Oaks Ct, off Waverley, is ru ores to be Larry Page. For more than two years, a large and very, very long pipe ran from the back of the the lot where the mansion was being built, down Bryant St. It emptied into a storm drain on California Ave.

I walked my dog every evening after work down Bryant during that period. At several points, cars running over this pipe to get I to their driveways and to the parking lot of the church on the corner of Bryant and Calif Ave cracked and broke the pipe, which flooded the gutter for hours/ days before the co tractors repaired it.

We're the contractors or the property owner ever cited for this? Probably not.


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2015 at 10:10 pm

"Now as the water is being drained, it is all going to the wetlands which is badly needed due to 4 years of drought. Study the situation and understand the big picture."

Really? Our storm drains go to creeks which go to the bay. The bay has plenty of water, drought or not. So, there is no benefit from wasting public groundwater for private privilege.


7 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 22, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Yes really!

How long have you lived in the SF bay? You understand the whole SF bay estuary don't you? Did they teach you this in elementary school? Slough, creek marsh brackish water...ring a bell?

That's why I said to understand the BIG picture before jumping to conclusion.


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm

"You understand the whole SF bay estuary don't you?"


Yes, and wish you and the other cellarhole pumpout apologists did likewise.


4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 23, 2015 at 9:21 pm

You understand that water even from a little creek will eventually flow out toward the bay. This is why in a survival situation and you happened to come across a body of water, you follow the water flow since it will direct you toward bigger body of water such as the bay.

Having stated the obvious, the estuary has been rejuvenated over the years from snow melts, rain...but it hasn't gotten a good dose since the drought. The pumping of water due to excavation does very little but it does contribute by giving back water the wetlands. Besides, that pumped out water belongs to the aquifer which is also part of the whole SF bay eco system. So you are basically giving it back to nature.

The notion that salt water from the bay flow into the estuary is false and misleading. There is some of that movement near the mouth of the bay but water does not move upstream!


1 person likes this
Posted by PalyGrad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 23, 2015 at 9:32 pm

The Dewatering Fee in the City of Palo Alto is $142 + $82 per month of discharge.

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2015 at 10:26 pm

Everything "irks" Palo Alto residents. It's a wonder anyone wants to live here.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2015 at 3:15 pm

"the estuary has been rejuvenated over the years from snow melts, rain...but it hasn't gotten a good dose since the drought. The pumping of water due to excavation does very little but it does contribute by giving back water the wetlands. Besides, that pumped out water belongs to the aquifer which is also part of the whole SF bay eco system."

Snow melts? In our local creeks? Get real.

Giving water back to the wetlands? How did it get taken from them and wind up in the way of a basement? (A: It didn't.) You have much to learn about the water cycle.

Aquifer? This is near-surface water. True aquifers are somewhat deeper and more permanent. Until they're pumped, that is, which drives their upper interface ever deeper, like in the central valley and the Ogallala Aquifer under the plains.

Finally, what is the basis of your claim of a connection between this water wasted to pumpouting and the bay? Have you followed the flow underground to the bay? Or tagged a gallon underground in OPA and retreived it from the bay? Has anyone?


3 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2015 at 3:38 pm

To defend basement pumping as a way to give back to the estuary is entirely ludicrous. Let's pump the water from the city and dump it in the bay. Yeah, that makes sense.

For everyone that doesn't think pumping water from the ground during a drought is a bad idea, realize that there are sink holes forming in the central valley because the water that is being pumped is not being replaced due to the drought. If you pump water out, it needs to be replenished from somewhere, and if there isn't any water being deposited into the system, it isn't being replenished.

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Curmudgeon - storm drains empty into the creeks, the creeks empty into the bay.

Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 24, 2015 at 3:57 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Duh
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 24, 2015 at 4:04 pm

@me- you are hilarious. Melting snow becomes water and will flow down to lower elevation. It is common sense I thought. Yes?


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2015 at 4:13 pm

"@Curmudgeon - storm drains empty into the creeks, the creeks empty into the bay."

OK, but what has that got to do with groundwater?


"How do you proposed excavation of basement, office buildings and the like without pumping water out? Pure genius here"

Don't dig where water is. Dig only where water ain't. Watched 'em do that in my 'hood many times. No pumps. Geniuses, they are.

Look, it pays to study and learn beyond elementary school. That way you'll find out the rest of the story, and you won't need personal insults.


2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 24, 2015 at 4:34 pm

"Don't dig where water is. Dig only where water ain't."

Ain't that a smart idea!

I think you now are insulting your own-self here by not letting the remaining neurons to fire effectively. think just little harder...you will get it.

You are not talking about North Dakota here Einstein! Blue prints to construct around PA on a very small lot (sometimes under 10k sqf) just do not give you the freedom to just choose another site to excavate!

Yes he is hilarious and entertaining for the afternoon. Guten tag...got work to do now...hahaha






1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2015 at 4:54 pm

"Blue prints to construct around PA on a very small lot (sometimes under 10k sqf) just do not give you the freedom to just choose another site to excavate!"

Blueprints don't need to choose, and indeed cannot choose. Where to build is up to the human that owns them. City hall knows where the water is and ain't. One only has to ask. Presumably the pumpers are smart, asked, and went ahead with their eyes open.

Waste is waste. Shut off your pumps and live with your choice like a grownup.


9 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2015 at 10:01 pm

"Don't dig where water is."


Right. That way if you don't see the water, you cannot bemoan the 'waste'.

When the water remains underground and flows to the bay, we are not wasting it.

But when you pump it out of the ground and it flows to the bay, you need to be outraged. Because...water...rage. Rich people pumping... Aliens...Elvis...stuff.


1 person likes this
Posted by Asher Waldfogel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2015 at 7:18 am

Asher Waldfogel is a registered user.

The best way to manage the shallow aquifer is to have the same policies and prices for all users. Right now we allow construction dewatering for free and (my current understanding) effectively ban new irrigation uses of the shallow aquifer. Existing wells are metered by by the County.

Construction dewatering is the cheapest way to build at the water table, but it’s not the only way. We’ll quickly learn if there are cost-effective construction alternatives when we price the water.

The County has historically taken a peculiar view that beneficial water uses like irrigation are metered, but non-beneficial uses like dewatering are free. To a lot of us that seems backwards in a drought.


4 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2015 at 8:37 am

Asher - I agree. But there is already a fee.

Do you want more fees or different fees?


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2015 at 2:39 pm

"When the water remains underground and flows to the bay, we are not wasting it."

Prove that the water flows to the bay. The lazy response "everybody knows the water flows to the bay," gets an F. Wishing the water to the bay also doesn't cut it.


"Do you want more fees or different fees?"

The fair market value of the water seems reasonable, don't you think? Plus a $10M indemnity bond to cover subsidence damage to the neighbors' property.

Hey, if you can't afford it, don't do it. Don't lean on socialism.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mizu
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 25, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Regarding groundwater flow to the bay (from USGS Publications) - "Under natural conditions, ground water moves along flow paths from areas of recharge to areas of discharge at springs or along streams, lakes, and wetlands. Discharge also occurs as seepage to bays or the ocean in coastal areas, and as transpiration by plants whose roots extend to near the water table."


2 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Okay - that sounds right. Gravity still moves water downhill..

Now, why the outrage?


So I agree with Asher that there should be a mechanism to use shallow groundwater for lirrigation ( with charges) I just cannot figure out the need for $10m bonds nor do I feel that groundwater pumping is some outrageous moral sin.

How about these projects pay some nominal water charge similar to agricultural rates, discounted for any local reuse of water reclaimed for lawns, parks, etc.


1 person likes this
Posted by Asher Waldfogel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Asher Waldfogel is a registered user.

@Misconception - We're on the same page if you agree with a volumetric fee. Current dewatering charge is a fixed fee. I'd like to see dewatering and irrigation treated equally.

I am not aware of subsidence from dewatering in Palo Alto. Does anyone know of documented cases?

It would be interesting to ask a hydrologist what would happen if the shallow aquifer were mostly diverted for irrigation. If the answer is shallow pumping is only ok in moderation, then I question if prioritizing construction dewatering over other uses is the best policy.

An economist would probably suggest an annual auction to find a market-clearing price for the water volume we're willing to divert. Perhaps construction wins the auction, perhaps irrigation wins the auction.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mizu
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 25, 2015 at 6:51 pm

@Misconceptions

Exactly! Water still obeys the laws of physics.

@Asher

It has been a while since I was in school (Environmental Studies with an emphasis on water resources), but here in Palo Alto we are talking about tapping the shallowest aquifer and any subsidence from dewatering is negligible. People citing subsidence issues in the central valley with regards to the hydrogeology of Palo Alto are comparing apples and spinach. Prior to Hetch Hetchy when Palo Alto relied on wells for potable water there was a significant lowering of the water table, but that recovered fairly quickly to historical levels once we started getting San Francisco PUC water. Since Palo Alto does not have a large agricultural demand any wells used for irrigation around here would have a similar effect to dewatering as far as subsidence goes.


2 people like this
Posted by Misconceptions
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2015 at 7:23 pm

@Asher - I am nearly there on water volume pricing if I can find the source of shallow groundwater. (I have looked but cannot find definitive references)

Do you know how much of our local shallow groundwater is from:

-purchased replenish by SCVWD

- inflow from irrigation of hetch hetchy water on lawns

- Sanfranciscito creek watershed


The reason I ask is because a market clearing must have sellers as well as buyers.

If shallow water groundwater is from the creek or lawns, I see no reason to charge agricultural rates. In fact, too high groundwater becomes a nuisance.

It would be useful to allow local irrigation, as a way to save drinking water. It should be priced advantageously in that case to encourage use; cost of wells, pumps, etc.

All the information is in the price...


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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