Three wealthy water districts consume the lion's share of local water | August 6, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 6, 2021

Three wealthy water districts consume the lion's share of local water

Landscaping accounts for the biggest use

by Sue Dremann

The biggest sip of the straw from the Bay Area's water supply comes from people living in just three water districts: They consume nearly three to four times the amount of water as residents in 23 other municipalities and districts, according to data from the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, whose member agencies receive most of their potable water from the Hetch Hetchy system.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 6, 2021 at 10:32 am

resident is a registered user.

Of course, we should all try to do what we can to use less water. But let's not kid ourselves that this is enough. There is an excellent article in Vox (Web Link that points out that "Just 100 companies are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s carbon emissions since 1988.". We might also ask, what are the companies that are responsible for the largest water consumption. Residential water saving is a drop in the bucket.

Posted by resident
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 6, 2021 at 11:07 am

resident is a registered user.

Also, does anyone have information about experts who can install residential grey water systems?

Posted by Vibhu Mittal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2021 at 11:12 am

Vibhu Mittal is a registered user.

Is there any consensus on whether residents can have backyard bore-wells to pull water for irrigation? Is there a third choice (other than (i) putting purified drinking quality water on plants and, (ii) letting yards go brown)?

Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2021 at 5:03 pm

Leslie York is a registered user.

We saw these same numbers just a few short years ago. Hillsborough hogs most of the water for residential landscaping of its palatial estates.

When we started having droughts in the '70s, my mother made me dig up our front lawn. She replaced the grass with pea gravel (which she made me haul) and created a lovely garden that didn't require watering. My mother was smart. We have since sold the property but her pea-gravel front yard is still there.

The city of Palo Alto should look into a small municipal desalination plant that would supply, say, 40 gallons per resident per day. When rainfall is abundant simply turn it off. I've penciled out the figures and it's viable if you divide the cost of operation among all water users.

Where else are you going to get water? You can't conserve your way out of a drought.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2021 at 6:22 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

California's mismanagement of its water is showing. Desalination plants at various places along the coast should have been done decades ago. The water planning decisions made for a much smaller population did not take into account the way the population has grown and is very outdated.

Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2021 at 7:01 pm

Leslie York is a registered user.

There are several desalination plants in California municipalities.

It costs the city of Carlsbad about $1.86 per day for one cubic meter of water. Doing the math, Palo Alto (pop. 66,573) could run a desal plant providing 20 gallons per person per day for about 14 cents per resident per day, or $4.20 per month.

It would be a waste of expensive, potable, desalinated water to water the lawn and flowers with it.

Posted by Giraffe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2021 at 7:35 pm

Giraffe is a registered user.

I presume that people in apartments / condos use a lot less water than those in single family homes. In the table above, the top three users probably have very few apt/condos while the lower cities probably have lots of apts/condos. So, this should be taken into account in computing the water use numbers instead of just saying 'per capita'.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2021 at 8:57 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Oroville Dam shut down it;s electrical power grid. First time ever. All of the us now in electronic charging age use mega tons of water to keep our Internet life alive, while our World perishes in thirst. Shut them off, shut it down: Apple, Google, Facebook, Intel, Cisco etc. Number 2 news. Palo Alto says "No!" to multi family housing while large, xlrg and mega mansions use the most resources including H2o. It's sad that widowed old ladies continue to live alone in 5 bedroom 5 bathroom homes with glistening pools in Palo Alto, HIllsborough, Woodside . Gross irony of outdated Proposition 13. So last Century ! Or is the bumper sticker live simply so other can live in large houses with a low tax base.

Posted by Virginia Smedberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2021 at 2:04 am

Virginia Smedberg is a registered user.

to Vibhu+Mittal - YES - 3d option - purple pipe uses reclaimed water (both from the water plant and from construction) - look them up online. I like that idea because not only does it not use up the potable water supply, it also recharges our groundwater thru our landscape watering.
I would worry about bore wells, because there are areas on the peninsula (mostly south of us I think) that get their drinking water from wells, so we don't need to steal their groundwater...
to Resident: the city keeps giving workshops on grey water installation - I don't know if they have a list of contractors who can do it if you can't do it yourself (which I can't either), but it's worth an ask.
to Giraffe - valid point, should be done!
to Native to the Bay - not all of us are widowed old ladies - I am a beneficiary of prop 13 - and I rent my extra bedrooms to Stanford Students or currently to family incl. a teacher in the district. Be careful how you generalize. I'm sure there are some like what you describe; it would be nice if there were a way to ensure the safety of owners if they rent rooms, or whatever other concerns they might have.
You're partly right about hydro-electrical generation - tho the dams use some of their power to pump water back up into the reservoirs at night, for use in generating power the next day (San Luis Reservoir on Pacheco Pass road is a case in point). A good example of "re-use".
But I come back to my starting point for water: use reclaimed water (either grey or purple) for landscape; save the drinkable for drinking. I'm about to switch - I think the cost is comparable. And keep the trees watered (as the city is doing) - they help keep us cooler + many other benefits. Canopy has instructions on best watering practices for trees.

Posted by Chris G Zaharias
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2021 at 8:36 am

Chris G Zaharias is a registered user.

Until we moved out of the area in 2018, I built/ran Raindance, a landscape irrigation business trucking water from PA's water treatment plants to a few hundred of those palatial estates in PA, MP, Atherton, Los Altos, etc. People were willing to pay to have their yards watered with reclaimed H2O, but it was a monumental pain to be trucking such massive amounts of water.

I hear, though, that Purple Pipes and at least one other company still are offering this service.

Posted by Seer
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 8, 2021 at 1:31 pm

Seer is a registered user.

>> "We might also ask, what are the companies that are responsible for the largest water consumption."

The answer is easy: It's agriculture that dominates use. This shows up, for example, in the fact that the population in California has boomed but water use isn't all that different. If residential users just stopped using water, we'd still have 90% of the problem left.

A simple solution for residential is to create cisterns for catching water for medium => huge yards. I lived in a house in Israel that had *nonpermeable* pavers lining much of the yard directing water to a rather large cistern underground. In the dry season, there was a pump that fed water to the surrounding vegetable, flower beds and trees. It lasted the season because the winter had torrential rains that easily filled the cistern.

Posted by Banes
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 9, 2021 at 3:56 am

Banes is a registered user.

I believe most jurisdictions have water use tiered by now. Just like PGE charges for usage in tiers. Greater use, greater cost. Irrigation tax or mandatory grey water reuse systems. Cost of grey water irrigation is not that expensive to install. And yes, Commercial use should not be excluded.

Posted by Tecsi
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 10, 2021 at 7:26 pm

Tecsi is a registered user.

Sue: “Lion’s Share"? Usually that means more than half, if not more.

What % of the total do those 3 water districts use? Actually, well less than 5%

Yes, they use more per capita, but hardly the "lion’s share".

Please learn your math before you make erroneous assertions.

Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2021 at 12:53 am

Leslie York is a registered user.

"What % of the total do those 3 water districts use? Actually, well less than 5%"

It's you who needs to do the math:

Top 3: 617.8 gpd

Total: 875.5 gpd

Top 3: 70.6% of total.

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