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Saving a gallon at a time

Original post made on Nov 27, 2007

Concerned about a possible drought in the next couple of years, but confused about how to personally make a difference -- without totally killing the landscaping?

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 27, 2007, 10:28 AM

Comments (14)

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Posted by Friend of Native Plants
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 27, 2007 at 5:35 pm

**outdoor water use accounts for 50 to 60 percent of most homeowners' water usage ** the Water Efficient Landscape Rebate program, which encourages people to take out turf and put in low-water using plants," such as native, drought-tolerant ones **

If we want to conserve water by encouraging native plants, laws that protect redwoods don't cut it 'cuz they are not native and not drought-tolerant. There are probably other city policies that, if scrutinized, wouldn't pass muster either. Any suggestions for the stewards of our fair town?

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2007 at 7:36 pm

It is foolish to believe we can conserve our way out of water shortages. We need to continue the development of all available fresh water resources. When the supply becomes so dire as to consider R/O and recycling, we need to remind ourselves that these processes consume mucho energy, another commodity artifically made scarce too. Lawns moderate the temperature and hold down dust. Xeroscaping can contribute dust storms. Time to put away childish Bambi biology and Ehrlich Malthusianism and get back ahead of the curve.

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Posted by Mary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 27, 2007 at 7:48 pm

The water-wise housecall which we had done by the Santa Clara Valley Water District was excellent. However the CD we were given,"Water-WIse Gardening forSanta Clara County"
does not work on a Mac.

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2007 at 7:58 pm

Remembering the 5 year drought in the early 1990s, well I did. I have allowed the grass in my backyard to die, two-thirds of my front yard is ivy and I can hand water the very small front lawn, meanwhile my front yard still looks good for the neighbors!!

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2007 at 7:52 am

Is it time to start exponential water pricing again? Let price determine consumer's water usage.

As for developing more water sources, yes, but there is still only so much. If there isn't a significant snow pack, building more dams isn't going to save much water. Southern California is in much worse shape and it's only a matter of time for another peripheral canal. It's going to be bad for the entire state no matter how many new water sources are developed if we don't have snow in the Sierras.

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Posted by Adam
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 28, 2007 at 9:26 am

If the City suggests we all cut our water use by 10%, this would penalize those who presently do all they can to conserve. Anonymous has it right; exponential water pricing would be the fair way to go to distribute a limited resource.

In some (should be all) new developments two water distribution lines are being installed. One is for potable water, the other for recycled or desalinized water. The latter is still too expensive to be practical but recycled water is cost effective now.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2007 at 11:41 am

Refusing to develop available resources is political malpractice.

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Posted by Walter Mitty
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 28, 2007 at 11:44 am

Save the baby, or save the bath water, Walter? To hear you talk, one might expect to see you clear-cutting Foothills Park.

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Posted by janette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 28, 2007 at 5:04 pm

Try again, Friend of Native Plants, the falsehood about redwoods not being native is getting progressively more ludicrous. I guess the name of the town is really El Sugar Maple.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2007 at 6:07 pm

They clear cut cornfields, and they grow back. Vegetation is not permanent. Water out the Gate is lost to us. Bathwater is readily recycled, toilet water less so. Playing one-up on conventional toilets is an ego game. Retrofit vacuum flush for black waste and really cut a fat hog. Let civil engineers take care of civil works and reasign Gorebists to whatever they do that is of value.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Oh, and Walter, - tapocket.

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Posted by Beth Nord
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2007 at 10:54 pm

Some of us have already eliminated that 9-11% represented by showers and baths...and the percent represented by drinking water as well. I am referring to those of us who have a toxic reaction to the chloramine disinfectant that is used in our water. Problems include skin, respiratory and digestive reactions. If you are having inexplicable problems in any of those areas, check out It may be the water.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 4:18 am

Amen on chloramine, Ms. Nord. This was a foolish response to the banish chlorine movement, instituted with little consideration of side effects.

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Posted by Friend of Native Plants
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 29, 2007 at 7:09 am

Janette --

The watering needs of redwoods here in Palo Alto are not inconsequential. Redwood trees’ native range has a mean annual rainfall of 70”. Palo Alto’s average annual rainfall -- a mere 15” before global warming -- is 1/5th of the water redwoods need. The rest comes from our public water supply. That, according to UC’s Natural Resources group, is a “huge commitment” for a tree.

You've posted to other online discussions your comment about redwoods being native. Just curious, what part of those long, detailed discussions about redwoods not being native in these parts was not persuasive? The well respected UC Berkeley Botanist's detailed description of the coastal redwood's native range being the coast, pointing out that Palo Alto is not in that range? The old pictures of the Palo Alto landscape with nary a redwood, save El Palo Alto, in site? The city arborist's statement that virtually all the redwoods in town have been planted by the city and homeowners, and recently at that?

No one knows how El Palo Alto got here, but they do know that it stood out because it was the only redwood in the area and hence a landmark for the explorers. It survived because it got its water from the creek. Now that that creek is dry, it is alive only because of an extensive water misting system installed that runs up its 100+ foot tall trunk.

My point is simply that in times like these, where water is a scarce and expensive resource, there should not be City policies and incentives that fly in the face of conservation. Use the extra water to keep El Palo Alto alive, but look again about the wisdom of forcing homeowners of the other 1,000s of redwoods in town to keep their redwoods and burden on our water supply in ways that native trees, like oaks, don’t do.

The City's position on redwood trees comes to mind because it was recently in the news, but I suspect there are others like it as well. Our community, public and private, should audit its practices and see what makes sense in this era of global warming. No one and nothing should be exempt from the discussion.

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