News

Palo Alto looks to boost East Palo Alto's water share

Council members propose transferring part of city's water allocation to neighbor

As East Palo Alto continues to cope with a water shortage that has effectively frozen new development, four members of the Palo Alto City Council are proposing to shift some of their city's water allocations to their parched neighbor.

The idea, which was proposed in a memo from Mayor Pat Burt and council members Eric Filseth, Karen Holman and Tom DuBois, is to transfer or sell to East Palo Alto a "small portion" of the city's guaranteed allocation from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the regional supplier. The allocations, known as "individual supply guarantees" were established in 1984, when the SFPUC was divvying up portions between San Francisco and the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, a coalition of 26 wholesale customers that includes both Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.

The allocation took place just as East Palo Alto was being incorporated as a city, with little thought given to future growth. As a result, its allocation was only 1.96 million gallons of water per day (mgd). By contrast, Palo Alto received an individual supply guarantee of 17 mgd, far more than the city uses today.

In recent years, as East Palo Alto has continued to grow and expand, the water issue has grown more acute. With the city's allocation still frozen in 1984 levels, development has slowed to a trickle as the city put several major projects on hold. These include a 120-unit affordable-housing development on Weeks Street; major office developments at 2111 University Avenue and 2020 Bay Road and a private school funded by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.

To cope with the challenge, East Palo Alto has requested from the SFPUC an expanded allocation of 1.5 mgd. The city has also joined a newly formed Joint Recycled Water Advisory Committee, which includes elected officials from Palo Alto, Mountain View and the Santa Clara Valley Water District. During the committee's March meeting, just after East Palo Alto and Mountain View were introduced as new members, water district Board Member Gary Kremen called East Palo Alto's water allocation "unfair" and said he'd like to see some progress on that front.

"If there was a way that we can, in the county, help them out from the potable-drinking-water point of view, I'm really excited about this," Kremen said.

Burt and DuBois, who also serve on the regional committee, agree. In the new memo that they co-signed with Filseth and Holman, they request that the council either schedule a discussion of how to transfer to East Palo Alto some of Palo Alto's individual supply guarantee or to delegate the debate to the council's Policy and Service Committee.

"Given that East Palo Alto has the lowest residential per capita water use in the region, the current situation is inadequate to meet its needs," the memo states. "In addition, the economic wellbeing of East Palo Alto is important to Palo Alto, and its ability to provide affordable and obtainable housing helps support its surrounding communities."

The memo also notes that Palo Alto has plenty of water to give, particularly given the recent surge of conservation. Through their agreement with SFPUC, the 26 customers that make up BAWSCA are allocated 184 mgd of water. As the memo points out, last year they collectively purchased only 126 mgd. Palo Alto has done its share, having reduced its water usage over the past 20 years by 40 percent, to about 10 mgd. The SFPUC projects that Palo Alto will need about 11.9 mgd in 2020, with use "slightly decreasing thereafter as water conservation programs continue."

The terms of the cities' agreement with SFPUC expressly provide for transfers between wholesale customers of individual supply guarantees. The terms also specify that the transfers must be permanent and that the minimum quantity transferred is 0.1 mgd.

The Palo Alto council is scheduled to consider the memo and lay out the city's next steps on Dec. 5.

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Comments

43 people like this
Posted by Peter Drekmeier
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 23, 2016 at 11:17 am

I applaud Mayor Burt and Councilmembers Dubois, Filseth and Holman for addressing the issue of East Palo Alto’s water shortage. Transferring a small portion of Palo Alto’s abundant water allocation to one of our closest neighbors is absolutely the right thing to do.

As mentioned, East Palo Alto’s allocation is about 2 million gallons per day (mgd), while Palo Alto’s is about 17 mgd. Palo Alto currently only uses 10 mgd of its allocation, and it should be noted that demand projections for 2040 suggest our use will remain at 10 mgd, even with population and jobs growth.

East Palo Alto provides housing for many Palo Alto employees, and bears much of the traffic burden from commuters traveling from the East Bay to their jobs in Palo Alto. Transferring a small percentage of our water allocation to enable them to build much-needed affordable housing and other projects would be a nice way of showing our appreciation.


16 people like this
Posted by vmshadle
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 23, 2016 at 11:28 am

vmshadle is a registered user.

I agree with Mr. Drekmeier. EPA should not be penalized forever by inadvertently bad decision-making way back in the day. And Palo Alto clearly has allocation sufficient enough to share.


19 people like this
Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2016 at 12:16 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

Good news! Thank you Palo Alto City Council members for finding a way to be a good neighbor.


13 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Nov 23, 2016 at 12:26 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I applaud the council for looking to be a good neighbor. Helping EPA helps us and the region.


13 people like this
Posted by Yes!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2016 at 12:34 pm

It was the RIGHT thing to do!


16 people like this
Posted by Don McDougall
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 23, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Thank you Mayor Burt for taking the lead in this partnership approach to a regional issue.


19 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Offer to double whatever they want, if they take Palantir. Then we can have our downtown back!


5 people like this
Posted by Sharifa Wilson
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Great to see that cooperation across city lines is being considered. Each city supports one another in many ways. We now have a need that you can fill. Let's all support this. Thanks PA council members.


10 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 23, 2016 at 4:37 pm

My understanding is that once the Stanford Hospital Development is finished, the water demand will use up much of the Palo Alto surplus. This is what I was told by Tom Jordan, when the EIR for the expansion was being reviewed. Maybe someone should check this.
Oh -- by the way, nothing should be done to encourage more office development, whether in Palo Alto or East Palo Alto.


14 people like this
Posted by Dirk Petermeier
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2016 at 7:18 pm

One thing that has been overlooked in this conversation is the fact that most of the big tech company's have purchased large tracts of land in East Palo Alto. The tech companies can not build without this water. This water is not for the benefit of the poor working class, this water is for the benefit of the rich tech companies and their shareholders.

Let's call a spade a spade.


5 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 23, 2016 at 9:58 pm

Palo Alto gets the water back.

And then we process it at our baylands RWQCP, along with flushes from Stanford, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Mountain View. Just wonder how the billing works. 1.5 mgd is 2000 CCF units per day. Palo Alto rate is $6.30 per unit (tier 1 residential), no wastewater charge. I don't know how much of that amount goes to pay the SFPUC. Commercial users are charged another $6.71/CCF to cover the sewer end of things. What are the charges in East Palo Alto and how much if it comes into our own city hall? Somebody will get a bigger office. As for capital improvement projects, looks like East Palo Alto has been contributing about 8 percent cost sharing -- will their share increase?


Like this comment
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2016 at 12:58 am

Palo Alto would have "more" water if we caught up to the ever growing recycled water system Sunnyvale has for irrigation. Nice to see Palo Alto slowly expanding our recycled water system and this past summer trucking recycled water to thirsty City trees and vegetation.

I took out a front lawn in 2015 and some rear neighbors took out a huge redwood lifting another neighbor's foundation - a tree which had been living off my back lawn irrigation for 40+ years... so my water use will not increase soon. Happy to send "my" water to EPA for whatever they want to do with it.

Our goals should be not just helping our human neighbors in EPA but finding ways to pull less water from our acquifers and put cleaner water into our Bay and streams for the wildlife which depends on that fresh water.


Like this comment
Posted by jaidynhayden
a resident of Escondido School
on Nov 24, 2016 at 1:05 am

jaidynhayden is a registered user.

great keep sharing on


20 people like this
Posted by Big Development
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2016 at 5:52 am

Palo Alto water has already been allocated for East Palo Alto. Does anyone honestly think that The big tech giants would spend millions of dollars on land that they could never develop? Palo Alto forced and shamed it's residents to conserve water so that they can give it to to the big tech companies. The public is tired of hearing rhetoric about projects like these that paint a pretty picture on how this will help the poor, tired, and huddled masses. We ALL know that this is for big development.


5 people like this
Posted by Jason
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 24, 2016 at 8:37 am

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Great news!
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 24, 2016 at 8:53 am

Great news! is a registered user.

This is simply the right thing to do!


4 people like this
Posted by Howard
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2016 at 9:05 am

Haven't the environmentalists been making demands to tear down Hetch Hetchy dam? And to allow more fresh water to flow into the Delta? If we want more fresh water, we will need to seriously start desalination, powered by nuclear energy.


3 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 24, 2016 at 9:24 am

@Howard
Palo Alto and the Santa Clara Valley Water District began a joint program last year to pursue advanced purification of our waste water using PaloAlto's low cost 100% carbon neutral electricity. Our most recent solar contract was at a record low 3.7 cents per kilowatt hour. The cost of renewables is now lower in Caildornia than any other source of electricity.


10 people like this
Posted by Ordinary Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2016 at 10:09 am

This article makes it sound like the saving from Palo Alto residents is some kind of structural savings from greater efficiency, when it's not -- many of us already were very efficient and have made sacrificial changes such as allowing our gardens and fruit trees to die until the drought is over. If Palo Alto has more water than we need, the Council should first keep faith with residents by allowing them to resume normal life. I have teens who would like to learn about gardening while they still have the chance before college, having waited most of their lives without that chance because of the drought. It's also something positive for them to do with friends. I am for sharing with EPA, but I think the sharing should not come on the backs of residents anymore. Palo Alto should commit to reduce its own development and get the savings from the temporary workforce if it wants to give away water. Perhaps the downtown Council members will order the wealthier residents of Palo Alto to let their landscaping die first, since the wealthy have used more water through the drought?

The first call should be an end to mandatory restrictions on residents. If we are still in the drought and that is not possible, then there is no call to share water for more development. If we don't have water for existing residents to just have urban gardens, or get through the backlog of bulky laundry, developers should be developing away in places that do have the water, not here. (Given the analysis of the election, that could be good for our nation on so many fronts.)

The duty of the City Council is to residents first. Anyone who wants to make a manipulative ad hominem attack about that should first set up a pledge space where everyone who thinks like them can give up their water so that other reaidents who object can restore their normal usage, plus a fund for our vegetation that has to be removed and replaced, then go to City Council to allow for such swaps and create enforcement if you don't keep your commitment. Do that, and guarantee my water restrictions will not be lowered again despite what happens in the next few years with the drought, and I will be happy to support this.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 24, 2016 at 11:45 am

@Ordinary, what mandatory restrictions? Yes there's a drought surcharge, but the first 4500 gallons per month are still less than a penny each. After that, it's 1.34 cents/gallon with no limit that I've seen. Correct me if I'm wrong. Palo Alto has a few rules about runoff into the storm drains, shut-off valve on the hose when washing your car, and recycling the water in any decorative fountains, but these rules are just in conformance with State law. I don't see any extra City restriction, though City Hall may try to shame you into using less.


Like this comment
Posted by Patrick Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 24, 2016 at 2:06 pm

Patrick Burt is a registered user.

@Ordinary Resident
Although it is understandable to assume that the mandatory rationing during the past drought was related to our local water supply or directed by the city or the SFPUC, it was actually a state mandate and unrelated to our local water supply and outside of the control of the city. The Hetch Heychy system that we rely upon remained fairly strong throughout that historic drought. That state mandate ended in May of this year.
We in Palo Alto did reduce our water use significantly in response to the state mandate. Those reductions were on top of our steady citywide reductions over the past 20 years through water efficient fixtures and appliances as well as conversion to water efficient landscaping and conversion of ornamental lawns to other plantings along the lines of what Musical described above. We will continue to reduce our water use in the city through measures such as expanded grey water use, a larger and better wastewater recycling system, and our new Archetectural Approval Findings which now require native drought tolerant plantings for large projects.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Palo Alto's recycled water is a long way from being usable. The high salt content is highly corrosive. Once ol' Phil Boebel and company figure out how to get the total dissolved solids down to below 400 parts per million, and at the same time not breaking the bank while doing it, then we might have a recycled water policy that will be worth it's weight in salt. Pun intended.....Just say'in.


13 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 24, 2016 at 9:06 pm

For irrigation I've considered applying to build a 0.1 square foot basement and then perpetually dewatering it.


4 people like this
Posted by Calling it like it is.
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 25, 2016 at 7:54 am

While I am agreement with this proposal, I would like to see reciprocation. Seems that Palo Alto has always been the "good neighbor" but much of the crime experienced in Palo Alto (residential burglaries/auto burglaries for instance) are being committed by East Palo Alto residents. Just look at the Daily Post statistics when arrests are made.


Like this comment
Posted by Kirk
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2016 at 8:30 am

Howard is spot on. Desalination powered by nuclear. Pat Burk forgot to tell us about when the sun does not shine, or the quality of the water resulting from the recycled sewage, not mention that sewage is only part of our water usage.


3 people like this
Posted by Patrick Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 25, 2016 at 12:30 pm

I don't want to see thread to drift further off topic, but I'll try to answer a couple of concerns raised over our water recycling initiatives.
First, Palo Alto's carbon neutral electricity comes from a range of sources. Approximately 45% comes from hydro which is carbon free, but is not defined as a renewable in California. The balance comes from wind, landfill natural gas and solar. Solar is now the cheapest new supply of electricity available to Palo Alto. Issues of grid balancing and storage of renewables are complex discussions in themselves and increasingly important, but outside of this thread.
Currently, a portion of our wastewater is recycled in what is called a "purple line" which means that water can only be used for certain landscaping and non-sanitary uses. Because of the high salinity (TDS) of this water, Palo Alto is using it for only certain landscaping while Mountain View is using it more broadly. Both cities have plans to expand this use, but a reduction in the TDS to below 600 will be needed, probably achieved by blending with tap water or in the future from purified recycling.
Our purified recycling initiative that I mentioned in an earlier posting is a joint effort with the Santa Clara Valley Water District. This water would go through three additional steps to make pure. The SCVWD already has a similar successful facility in San Jose with plans to expand it countywide, Web Link. Also, the cost of purifying treated wastewater is significantly lower than desalinization since sea water has a far higher baseline of dissolved solids to remove than does treated wastewater.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 25, 2016 at 3:14 pm

On another thread we are discussing what will happen to the FRY's site. Any massive building on that site will require more water. Hopefully when decisions are made on sharing water the people in charge have already considered what other large projects are being discussed and what the water requirements are. The city seems to be making decisions which are specific to a situation but not considering the whole picture.


Like this comment
Posted by Howard
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2016 at 3:41 pm

@resident: Thank you for reminding us that our demand for fresh water is increasing, as we develop more density. We should not forget about lifestyles either: Gardens, trees, pools, lawns, parks and so forth. Let us not ignore the desire of environmentalists for free-flowing rivers and the fish within them. The only realistic solution is desalination, which requires significant energy (nuclear), even with improving methods. Recycling sewage water is a good thing, but hardly sufficient.

This fresh water issue is regional, not just PA and EPA. This is why we need major regional approaches on desalination.


5 people like this
Posted by Ordinary Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2016 at 8:02 pm

@Patrick Burt,
Are restrictions gone? May I restart my small patch of native grasses in the back and my vegetable garden/replant trees? May I wash my car in the driveway (using minimal water)? Car washes have wrecked my car's paint before. I have a tremendous backlog of large-item laundry. What happens if my water usage goes up for the near and foreseeable future?


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2016 at 8:28 pm

From what I understand, from having a conversation with a senior water official in East Palo Alto a while back, is that they were not to keen on using Palo Alto's recycled water,due to the fact that the ppm"S of the total dissolved solids were too high,umong other issues. I believe it is at around 800 right now.

Here is the real challenge: What is the amount of Federal, State and local grant money involved in the Palo Alto recycled water project and will the upcoming administration keep funding such projects?

I think in the long term, such projects like this are nessasary,but let's face it, all to often green projects such as these are all about getting the grant money.

So what is the amount of grant money for this project? These are issues the politicians keep from the public, or at the very least make it really hard to find. We need more honesty and transparency in government. Remember, grant money is NOT free. Somebody has to pay for it.

Drain the swamp.



2 people like this
Posted by Patrick Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 25, 2016 at 10:14 pm

@ Ordinary Resident
In May the governor dropped his mandatory state drought restrictions, Web Link. They were replaced by our SFPUC water supplier of much more modest restrictions of a 10% reduction from our 2013 baseline, Web Link, rather than the 25% state mandated reduction of the drought. The measures now in place for the city are mostly common sense good practices than do not place onerous limitations on us.
@Howard
Although it may be counter intuitive, our reduction over the past 20 years of approximately 40% in citywide water use includes the development the has occurred in the city over that period. Our staff projections are for a continued decline in use going forward, even with projected new development and residents and excluded expanded use of recycled water.


5 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 26, 2016 at 2:34 am

Imagine how little water we'll use when the last square inch of open soil is paved over.

(so it ain't really counter-intuitive)


6 people like this
Posted by I want my lawn back
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2016 at 4:20 am

I understand that the water table in places such as Butte county (Chico) has been dropping by as much as 30 feet a year. This is due to high water use for crops such as rice and almonds . What is being done to curtail water use for the big agriculture corporations? In a way, we are selling our water to China in the form of almonds. How as residents do we benefit from the state mandates ?


2 people like this
Posted by Howard
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 26, 2016 at 2:50 pm

@ Pat Burt

Your rationale should also apply to EPA, correct? EPA can grow, yet have less demand for water. Why is EPA requesting PA to give them more water?

Maybe all EPA needs is the expertise of PA utilities staff, not our actual water.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 26, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Owned and operated by the City of Palo Alto, the Plant treats wastewater for the communities of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Stanford University and the East Palo Alto Sanitary District.


Like this comment
Posted by Green Palo Alto
a resident of Nixon School
on Nov 27, 2016 at 10:40 am

@Resident

Santa Clara Valley Water District has come up with $3,000,000 in the last two years to work on the feasibility of water purification from the RWQCP.

Thank you @Pat Burt for getting the money.


1 person likes this
Posted by Patrick Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 27, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Patrick Burt is a registered user.

@Green
The primary credit for getting the $3M from SCVWD should go to Gary Kremen. These dollars are expected to be the down payment on a shared project among the district, the city, and our five wastewater treatment plant partners to design and eventually build a purified water recycling facility along the lines of what the SCVWD has already done in San Jose. At the end of this year I will be stepping down from chairing a joint committee of Water District, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Mountain View officials pursuing water recycling alternatives.
The potential of cost efficient purified water produced by clean energy is an exciting option for a sustainable water supply created with sustainable energy.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 27, 2016 at 8:17 pm

Is there a link that explains how the 3 million dollars was generated for this project?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2016 at 8:31 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by SCVWD
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2016 at 9:58 am

The $3m Mayor Pat Burt and Gary Kremen lead procuring from the Santa Clara Valley Water District (the District) is a $3M appropriation for FY16 for the Recycled and Purified Water Efforts for the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant. The District's positive vote on the appropriation, which was the first funds of its kind to come to Palo Alto from the SCVWD since 1964, was voted on in FY 15. Of that amount, about $500k was already spent on developing comprehensive reverse osmosis concentrate management plans (getting rid of the bad stuff) in collaboration with regional wastewater producers in the County, including Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant.

The District is also working on a second cost-sharing agreement with the City of Palo Alto that will focus on creating a Northwest County Recycled Water Strategic Plan (Strategic Plan) associated with the Palo Alto RWQCP and recycled water customers in East Palo Alto, Stanford, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park and Mountain View. The City, in partnership with the District and Mountain View, will share costs and hire a consultant to complete the Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan will include Phase III of the recycled water system expansion, financial planning, preliminary design, funding, and a study of groundwater in Northwest County. The purpose of the groundwater study is to evaluate the feasibility for indirect potable reuse. Also looked at is how to integrate 100% clean energy into the operation. The source of the District contribution is from non Palo Alto cities water rates, property taxes and other funding sources.

There was a further appropriation in FY17 to top off the funding at $3m ($500k was already sent in FY2016)

The Northwest County joint committee has Burt, Kremen, Keegan, Siegel, Rutherford, DuBois, Estremera on it


2 people like this
Posted by Onion
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2016 at 3:33 pm

For all the dead enders that continue to insist we are in a drought. The drought ended last year. Our reservoirs are overflowing. There are SOME places in California that are still suffering, because they used to be desert. No pity for them. Reading about water shortages next to headlines citing the overflowing reservoirs make this article read like something from the Onion.

Web Link


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

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