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Bad-tasting water due to Hetch Hetchy water reductions

Original post made on Dec 5, 2016

Palo Alto and other local cities' residents who have been complaining about nasty-tasting water coming from their taps can blame it on water reductions from the Hetch Hetchy supply and blending from other sources, according to City of Palo Alto Utilities spokeswoman Catherine Elvert.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 5, 2016, 3:47 PM

Comments (29)

Posted by Sara
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 5, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Glad to see the city responding to this, but I and a couple of my neighbours have been noticing the odd moldy smell in the water for the past 2-3 weeks, not just a couple of days.

Posted by The sun will set as well
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 5, 2016 at 5:09 pm

They have to respond to complaints EVERY YEAR. This is nothing new but I guess some people never knew this happens. It's been a commonly reported ,situation most every Fall, as water stores get lower and lower until the rains recharge them.
I first remember Van Amburg on Channel 7 news explain it in the 1970's.

Posted by James
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 5, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Aren't we talking about giving some portion of our Palo Alto Hetch Hetchy water allocation to East Palo Alto? How does this pencil?

Posted by Solar eclipse
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 5, 2016 at 6:06 pm

Sun: some people might be new to the area. I hear it's been somewhat popular in the recent years, with new jobs in the technological industry and such.

Posted by Train Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 5, 2016 at 6:34 pm

Train Neighbor is a registered user.

I can always taste the difference when they switch off of 100% Hetch Hetchy water and start drawing from local reservoirs. Happens every winter.

@James: Regarding sharing a small portion of the Palo Alto water allocation with EPA, we have plenty to share. Palo Alto's guarantee is over 17 million gallons per day (MGD) but we only use about 10-12. The colleague's memo says they are proposing to share 0.5 - 1 MGD.

Sources: Web Link and Web Link

Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 5, 2016 at 9:01 pm

It tastes and smells like well water No biggie. CPA has several wells around the city

Posted by Paul Mason
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 6, 2016 at 4:52 am

I guess I am in Adobe Meadow, as Adobe Creek and Adobe Springs are here?

The UN's WHO published a recommendation that ALL drinking water on earth contain at least 25 mg of Magnesium per liter, to prevent heart attacks and strokes, but VERY few waters have that much Mg. Adobe Springs and Adobe Creek have 110 mg of Magnesium per liter, and there is a Free Spigot east of Mount Hamilton, at 19,000 Del Puerto Canyon Rd, Patterson, CA 95363. Tastes great too!

But it is one heck of a long drive from San Jose over Mt. Hamilton, taking over an hour.

Drive safe on these mountain roads!


Posted by BP Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2016 at 11:52 am

If City of Palo Alto water is so safe and delicious, why don't they drink it at City Hall instead of having bottled water delivered to nearly every floor?

Posted by W. L.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Has anyone else experienced upset stomach or cramps after drinking the new water?
Some have been reporting stomach cramps and diarrhea since the new foul smelling water has been introduced by the SF Public Utilities Commission, according to this source on Reddit:
Web Link

"both my roommate and I noticed that our water smells like lake water and we've both had upset stomachs for the last few days."
"I woke up this morning with terrible stomach aches and the worst diarrhea of my life (TMI). I only drink tap water and my boyfriend was commenting last night how it tasted fishy. Does anyone else feel sick? Could be unrelated, I know, but the timing is strange."
"I had a really unusual stomach cramp last night after re-hydrating myself after going for a run."

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2016 at 3:35 pm

It tastes bad. I was letting the water run for a few minutes in the hope of the flavor going away, but it never did.

Posted by Paul Mason at Adobe Springs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 6, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Partly at my urging, Israel is starting to add magnesium to tap waters, to lower the rate of heart attacks and strokes. A side benefit is that magnesium is known to "calm the mind", so it may reduce violence and civil unrest. The WHO published a recommendation that ALL drinking water contain at least 25 mg of magnesium per liter to lower the death rate from heart attacks and strokes.

"Natural Calm" is magnesium citrate powder, to be mixed in drinking water, and tastes OK, available OTC at most pharmacies and supermarkets in California.

Magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt) is cheaper and also works in water, but doesn't seem to taste quite as good. There are numerous forms of healthy magnesium, which averages as the second most common mineral in ground water, though generally not enough of it, as 80% of Americans are Mg-deficient.

The FDA destroyed the American mineral water industry upon the FDA's founding in 1930, as AMA was upset at losing consumers' business during a depression, and didn't understand the benefits of Mg at that time.


Paul Mason
Magnesium Online Library
(I don't know if I am allowed to post my Library's URL).

Posted by Jane Doe
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 7, 2016 at 8:15 am

Water change happened couple weeks ago, not days. The taste of water has not returned to normal despite weeks have passed. Claims that the issue will get fixed in days is a blatant lie.

There are solids in water alongside the moldy/earthy taste. Drinking water with mud, soil and earth, despite absence of pathogens, is unacceptable, even in third world countries.

It sucks Bay Area residents pay hefty mortgages and rents and end up drinking mud form the tap. Since so many jobs are here, I guess, city and utility officials figured that nobody can leave for another place, so why bother providing quality drinking water to residents.

The solution I want is notification on CPUC website every single time there will be a water source change and transparency on water testing results. CPUC scum instead choose to hide as much as they can, even when mud is flowing through the tap.

Posted by Paul Mason at Adobe Springs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 7, 2016 at 9:53 am

Jane Doe is right, that mineralized water tastes differently from "purified water" lacking minerals.

Europe is full of bottled mineral waters from ancient springs, and consumers often get loyal to their local flavor. The FDA screwed up in 1930, when it villainized mineral water and touted purified (deadly) water.

Though many minerals can be found in various ground waters, magnesium is the most important one in terms of health (should be at least 25 mg/L as per WHO).

Calcium is also an important mineral, and the one most commonly found in ground water. But an excess of calcium can be harmful, so water companies should inform their customers of both the magnesium and calcium contents of their waters, so consumers can make intelligent decisions.

I suggest that Jane Doe would do well to remove all minerals from her tap water using "reverse osmosis", and then add back magnesium, if she can stand the flavor. If flavor is a problem, take a magnesium pill.

Best Wishes for All,

Paul at Adobe Springs (FREE spring water at 19,000 Del Puerto Canyon Rd,
Patterson, CA 95363, containing 110 mg/L of Magnesium).

Posted by Sick from Water
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2016 at 2:33 pm

Sick from Water is a registered user.

Palo Alto and Mtn View water have been undrinkable since 2014.

At this point, we have to give filtered water to our dogs, since straight tap water started giving them diarrhea for over two-and-a-half years!

The children were sickened by the tap water first, and have had to drink either bottled water or double-filtered water for three straight years! Our daughter had such bad diarrhea and fevers that she had to be hospitalized for dehydration. She was tested for novovirus, giardia, e coli, etc and was negative for them. We already had a water filter for the kitchen sink, but after that we put them in the bathrooms as well. We also put a filter in the refrigerater for the ice water and ice cubes.

After the dogs started getting sick, we gave them only double-filtered water, too.

We have lived in Mediterranean countries, travelled in India, Nepal, Morocco, and parts of Mexico without illness. Something is REALLY wrong when water ina Third World country is more potable than in Palo Alto!

Posted by I hate idiots
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 7, 2016 at 3:04 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Why didn't the City notify residents of the change in the source of the water? At least give us a chance to filter the water. It is hard to believe that moldy smellng water is entirely safe to drink. Flint officials maintained for over a year that their smelly water was safe until independent sources proved it wasn't. The water changed Nov. 28 and the city did not respond until this week.

This does happen every year and every year, the city does not comment until a couple weeks after it happens. Why not be proactive for a change?

Posted by Paul Mason at Adobe Springs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 7, 2016 at 6:25 pm

What the State of California requires to get a Water Source Operator's License for cities is called a "Title 21" test for vast number of likely minerals/pollutants. I use BC Laboratories in Bakersfield. It costs me about $1700 per annum. I'm sure you could find labs closer to you that can do Title 21 lab tests.

They send a staff person out to get the sample themselves. But if you are not seeking a License, they could probably allow you to mail the sample bottles to them. There's a lot of bottles, and some have to be kept refrigerated, etc., and all have to have special labels, etc, etc.

I always let them do the sample-taking, just to make sure there are no staff-errors on my side.

Best Wishes for All,

Paul at Adobe

Posted by Paul Mason at Adobe Springs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 7, 2016 at 6:28 pm

I forgot to mention that it takes 6-8 weeks to get the Title 21 lab results, as there are a LOT of tests involved, and some samples have to go to other specialist labs.

Best Wishes for All,

Paul at Adobe

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 7, 2016 at 10:27 pm

Thanks for thie article. I was going to call the city about the smell and taste. But now it's been resolved. The taste and smell is subsiding but is still there. I was wondering about the Sunol Water Treament Plant. What is done at this plant?

Posted by Paul Mason at Adobe Springs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 8, 2016 at 2:07 am

In response to Native To The Bay: Adobe Springs are zoned as AGRICULTURE, and Stanislaus County says we are doing Agriculture, because we are harvesting a natural product for human consumption, and thus legally "farming".

Our water tested pure for coliform, but bottlers were concerned that if a herd of cattle or deer got sick and died up-stream, we could someday have a Coliform problem. So I installed particulate filters and Ultra-Violet (UV) filters, and pump the water non-stop 24 hours/day into 90,000 gallons of tanks, so that 13 trucks of 6,600 gallons each can all show up at once and be filled. Each truck takes about 15 minutes to fill, if the driver is swift to fill out the Load Receipts (with duplicates for the bottlers and the trucking companies). We are licensed annually as a "Potable Water Source" by the California Department of Health -- Drinking Water Branch. I only allow "doubles" for safety on these curving mountain roads. Once the water reaches the bottling plant, the law requires that the water be "ozonated" just prior to bottling to kill any germ in the cap, bottle, air-space, or water. Currently I get $507 per truckload, but that goes up 5% on Feb. 1, 2017 for our annual inflation adjustment. Adobe Springs water costs more than any other water in California, because it is tastier and much healthier, having an Mg content of 110 mg/L. We still have a spare 10,000,000 million gallons per annum to sell, but that would have to ship on Sundays to avoid conflicts with other bottlers. We are planning to develop other water sources world-wide. The Free Spigot is open 24/7 at 19,000 Del Puerto Canyon Road, Patterson, CA but that Free water can not be resold. It keeps everybody happy during this drought. If you have any questions, feel free to call me at (408) 897-3023.


Paul Mason
Adobe Springs Water Co.

Posted by Paul Mason at Adobe Springs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 8, 2016 at 2:24 am

I forgot to mention that in most communities, the tap water source has to reveal to consumers their Title 21 Lab Reports, though some water companies are slow to do so.

Paul at Adobe Springs

Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 8, 2016 at 6:10 pm

I agree that SFPUC should notify CPA, who in turn should notify customers when a source change occurs, planned or otherwise. The full article for this story said the water currently, compared to normal:
-- contains higher dissolved organic solids
-- is nearly twice as hard (dissolved calcium & magnesium)
-- is more alkaline
I also believe this kind of data should be available to the public without us having to ask for it. Why not post the most recent test results on the web?
Our water right now tastes like it does most places -- not very good, but drinkable. I'll be glad when it's back to normal. Does anyone know when that will be?

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 9, 2016 at 11:13 pm

Thanks. I was wondering about the "funky" taste and smell to the water. My son also was asking: why does the water smell like Matadero Creek?

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 9, 2016 at 11:16 pm

I was wondering why my drinking water tasted 'funky'. However my son said. It smells like Matadero Creek.x

Posted by Sick, and Tired of It, Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2016 at 1:25 pm

The dirty water in Palo Alto has RUINED two washing machines, a water heater and a dishwasher since 2013 ....all four had to have numerous service calls due to the dirty water clogging tubes and filters. One washer simply rusted out after a mere 20 months....when it was hauled away to make way for the replacement, a veritable trail of rust was left behind! The bottom fell out of the water heater, which was three years old, and our garage was flooded with dirty, rusty water and clumps of MUD!

All of the service techs who came out to make repairs over early four years have stated that they are being driven mad with so many calls for repairs in Palo Alto, Mtn View and Menlo Park. All have stated that the water here is unusually dirty and carries excessive sediment, shortening the life of people's washers, dishwashers, water filters, faucet heads, shower heads, toilets, etc.

We have since installed little filters on the hoses that go to the washing machine, but they literally clog so badly after one week that it takes 90 minutes to fill!

I feel as though the utility department owes us a refund for nearly four years of dirty and corrosive water! Had the washers, water heater and dishwasher not had extended warranties, I would have billed the utility company for them!

Posted by Paul Mason at Adobe Springs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 10, 2016 at 2:40 pm


As a professional in the water industry for the last 30 years, I have some free advice for you:

1. Install a "particulate filter" to collect mud. You will need a big one for all the mud you have. "USA Bluebook" is an online vendor to water companies, but their products may be too big for your needs.

2. Then install a Reverse Osmosis unit, which will take out ALL minerals.

3. Then install a UV (Ultra-Violet) unit, to kill all microbes.

My system can handle 200,000 gallons per day, and is very costly. I think you can keep your costs down by getting small units scaled for large aquariums. Run the units 24/7, and pump the small flow of water to a 1,000 gallon tank, and then connect an automatic pump to a pressure tank that will keep the PSI in the range of 30-50 PSI for house use. Put a an automatic shut-off unit on the pump, so it doesn't burn up if you run out of water. Forget watering the lawn or washing the car. You might be able to build this for $5,000 to $10,000.

And for health, add magnesium back into your water. "Natural Calm" is an inexpensive brand of magnesium citrate available at any pharmacy, which you can mix into a glass of water. The WHO recommends that ALL drinking water contain at least 25 mg of Mg per liter, to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Good Luck!

Paul at Adobe Springs

Posted by Another Flint?
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2016 at 12:18 pm

The water is so dirty that it is making our white and light colored clothing look dirty after washing. We had stopped using the extra rinse cycle due to the drought, but started using it again late last year in an effort to make our washable clothing look better.

This is a problem because our children attend Catholic school, and must wear white shirts and socks every day! The kids look unclean next to kids from cities south of Mountain View!

Oddly, our dog refuses to drink the water, so now she gets the same bottled water that we drink!

Is there a way that we can insist that the city utilities department get the water tested?

Even our dishes come out of the dishwasher with a slight coating! This has got to be unhealthy!

Posted by Paul Mason at Adobe Springs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 12, 2016 at 1:27 pm

As I understand it, all municipalities and water-sources for bottling have to be Licensed annually by the California Department of Health, Drinking Water Branch. To get the annual license, the water sources have to submit a Title 21 report for nearly 100 potential pollutants (costing about $1700), but I do not know if those test results are open to the public.

You might want to call your California Legislator about this. I am shocked that you folks are getting treated so badly. Maybe try calling a State or Federal legislator? Surely one of your neighbors is an attorney, and can file a Class Action?


Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Update - I also sent a copy of my message to the city council on Dec. 7 asking for a reason we were not notified of the changes in the water earlier.

Good: I got a response the same day from James Keene promising a response. "I will get you a response.

James Keene
City Manager"

Bad: It is Dec. 12 and no response to date.

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