News

District to hire temporary water-conservation enforcers

With state levying $500-a-day fines for water wasters, Valley water board backs $500,000 conservation effort

The Santa Clara Valley Water District board of directors last night unanimously approved the hiring of up to 10 temporary water enforcers who will be charged with investigating water waste throughout the county.

Water district spokesman Marty Grimes said Wednesday that the team of temporary hires, who could start enforcing water regulations in about a month, will not have the authority to cite people or issue tickets.

"They will be more of an educational resource to respond to complaints or reports that we get or that get referred to us of water waste," he said. "We'll go out and investigate and let people know what the rules are. If they're breaking them, we'll maybe offer referrals to services they might be eligible for, like a water-wise house call or a rebate program to replace some irrigation equipment."

The district's effort comes a week after the State Water Resources Control Board approved an emergency regulation to increase water conservation throughout the state. Starting Aug. 1, up to $500-per-day fines will be issued to people caught using drinkable water to hose off sidewalks and driveways, watering lawns or gardens to the point of causing runoff, washing cars without a hose equipped with a shutoff nozzle and using potable water in fountains.

Grimes said the creation of a water-conservation enforcement team stemmed from the district's desire to "ratchet up our efforts" to combat California's ever-worsening drought.

He said Santa Clara County has only cut its water use by 12 percent since last year.

"Our target is 20 percent, so we have a long way to go. Obviously everything that we've done to date has not gotten us to the goal, so the board has been really interested in doing more.

"We have limited abilities to do things like mandate water restrictions, so this is one thing that we can do," he said.

Grimes said he also sees the temporary water enforcers as performing a service that resource-strapped cities and water companies who also receive complaints or reports about water waste cannot.

"Not only do we think we can help save water, it's also just helping empower people to do something because a lot of people are doing everything they can in their own water use, and they're now trying to help out by addressing the water waste that they see around them. They can't do it on their own, and water companies and cities don't have the staff to do it on their own, so we want to be a service to them to be able to follow up on these calls."

The district has never implemented a program like this before, Grimes said, estimating it will take about a month to recruit, hire and train the team of enforcers. The board voted 6 to 0 Tuesday to authorize a $500,000 budget to support the program.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is Silicon Valley's largest water provider, supplying 15 cities and private water companies. Water providers in Santa Clara County that purchase water wholesale from the district include the San Jose Water Co. - by far its biggest customer -- and firms in the cities of Mountain View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Morgan Hill and Gilroy, according to Grimes.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dylan Carlson
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 23, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Urban use is 10% of the state's total water consumption. Conservation efforts in urban areas is good, I welcome that, but from an analytical point of view it's the wrong focus.

80% of the state's water consumption is in agriculture.

We still have crops like alfalfa growing in the desert, on water shipped down from Northern California, and it all gets exported to China. That's over 15% of the state's water right there, one crop.

I somewhat resent state water authorities getting heavy handed and moralistic with urban taxpayers when there's significantly more wasteful consumption happening elsewhere.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rob
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm

We will NOT be conserving water.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Won't matter
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Well said Dylan. Reminds me of times when commercial fishermen put the stocks in peril with their over fishing, so then they ban sport fishing.
Or when people say they want a cut to gov't spending waste, but not if it pertains to defense spending(the largest offender)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Management
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm

@Dylan,

Exactly. What's being done in the agricultural areas where 80% of the water is used. The PA Daily ran a story yesterday about a pipe from Hetch Hetchy that's been leaking 38,000 gallons a day into the Bay...for 5 years.

I also resent being micro-managed. Tell me to cut my usage by whatever percentage, but let me figure out how to do it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Won't matter
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Good for you Rob. Ideology is more important that water. Sheesh.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donna
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 23, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I was at Stanford yesterday and they were cleaning outside art works with a water hose?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Maher
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 23, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Well the NIMB mentality is alive and well in MV. How disappointing!

The crappy rationales of male minds to reject their individual obligation to be part of a solution because why? well because XYZ is the cause of the problem? IDiots!

Do what YOU CAN DO to help this world, and stop pouting.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kal Sandhu
a resident of Castro City
on Jul 23, 2014 at 3:03 pm

We did away with our front and backyard lawns, replacing them with crushed granite and drought resistant plats and trees. Unlike other counties I couldn't find any programs that encourage and reward residents for water conservation and there aren't program's that educate vigorous conservation. When I ran for coty council I was the only candidate talking and advocating water conservation and also for the possibility of a desaliantion plant in Shoreline Park. We need to conserve water on a daily basis not only during times of droughts and shortages.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dylan Carlson
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 23, 2014 at 3:08 pm

If they shut down alfalfa farming, which shouldn't even really be happening where it is anyway, we'd get 15% of the state's water back in one go. That would more than cover all urban usage, including real and/or perceived waste.

But the state doesn't want to lose that export-to-China revenue, so again the residents are the ones who get punished for the state's poor management of resources.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jerry
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 23, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Spending resources (10 staff?!) to give substance to nosey neighbors seems like we're missing the point. How about focusing on the biggest water uses and deploying more technology. We have waterless urinals now; why aren't they mandatory in new offices and incentivized for existing offices? We have incentives for LED lighting; why not have incentives for better sprinklers or automatic timers for irrigation? And how about for automatic faucets for kitchen and bathroom? We're not going to get out of this drought by putting pressure on people washing their cars without a shut-off valve.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 23, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Hmm, no one complained about the fire patrol, looking for people that were having fires on christmas day, why should anyone complain about a water patrol police? It's just the govt telling you what to do with a big bill slapped on you if you don't do it. If this was communist state, you would go straight to jail.

The worst offenders are big business, especially the Govt. They need to focus on them first, before going after the little guys.

Let the farms have their water, because guess what, what they grow, we eat. I guess that is a little known fact Dylan doesn't know.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dylan Carlson
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 23, 2014 at 10:33 pm

@Hmm

We export almost all of that alfalfa that nobody in California eats to China. ALL OF IT. That's 15% of our water. That's a little known fact you didn't know.

Also here's another: 10% is the total urban consumption. Which number is higher.

Anyway, go ahead, look it up. You're a smart person, obviously, who knows how to search, and isn't so much of a keyboard hero to use a real name.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by scott
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:05 pm

I just returned the the earthquakes game and couldn't help but noticing that Santa Clara Uni had lawns thicker and more lush than those in LAH, even the agapanthus were extremely healthy. hmmm


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Management
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:27 pm

@Maher,

Your "male minds" comment is offensive. Whether the minds are male or female is irrelevant...they make valid points. If the 38 million people in the state who use 10% of the state's water save 10%, that's a 1% savings for the state. If agriculture, which uses 80% of the state's water saves 10%, that's 8% savings for the state. And on top of that, agriculture probably has more low hanging fruit (pun unintended), so 10% or higher savings may be relatively easy.

I'll gladly save my 10% (or more), but let me decide how I want to do it, and let's see some focused and tangible results in going after the bigger users in this state.

Rather than higher 10 people to search for nozzleless hoses, why not higher 10 smart engineers to figure out how to better capture and process rain run-off? Or 10 bio-chemists to figure out how to treat soil so that it retains water more efficiently for crops.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Management
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:29 pm

"hire" ... apologies


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Randy
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Jul 24, 2014 at 12:44 am

I have a few questions and concerns:

1. A year ago or maybe two, Mtn View did such a good job at reducing water use that the city did not use the quota of water they were assigned by the water suppliers of Mountain View i.e. Hetch Hetchy water and Santa Clara Water District water. Mountain View ended up paying the full quota amount even though we didn't use all the water. One resident commented that they should have turned on the water and use the quota to get the lower rate. Not sure what ended up happening. It just seemed very poorly managed and the water contract poorly negotiated.

2. If Mountain View residents use less water, are the rates going to go up like what is happening in Alameda county where they did reach the 20% water reduction goal?

3. In response to some of the above comments: I believe it is more complicated than simply saying we should cut out alpha farming/irrigation to reach our 20% reduction goal. The places where we actually get drinking water come from various sources. One is the Hetch Hetchy area near Yosemite. Another is from wells and local reservoirs. These sources are drying up. If we do not conserve these sources of water, we will end up getting lower quality water from the delta... if it is even possible to divert the water. Which of course leads to endangering the fish/wild life in the delta and so on... everything is connected...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2014 at 10:36 am

We need to design, plan and build roadways and alternatives to the car
Foothill Expressway serves those going or coming from West Valley, last time I checked no Caltrain service.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by bart
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2014 at 11:01 am

I just spotted a water enforcement car next to MV Academy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by @ Dylan
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 24, 2014 at 11:14 am

Ok, so you want to deny the food going to Chinese tables. We see your true colors.

Why are you so worried about names? You want to come track me down or something? What if i gave you a name of john smith, would that make you happy? Who the hell cares who you are, it's your opinion that's important. Or do you want to be glorified by your ignorance?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dylan Carlson
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 24, 2014 at 11:25 am

@whomever

Your argument is such a mess and out of context, it's really not worth parsing.

I use my real name because I'm not afraid to stand behind what I write. I discuss around data, not hyperbole. Therefore it's not really a matter of opinion, it's about what to do next.

The data about state water consumption is out there for anyone to look at. On top of all that data, here's another fun fact: 3% of the state's electricity is used to deliver water from Northern California to Southern California.

If we're talking about waste, we need to start with the data first instead of jumping to wild conclusions. Though I know a lot of people here like to hide behind aliases and judge people with their keyboards -- instead of looking at data, knowing what's really going on, and proposing something be done about it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 24, 2014 at 2:45 pm

@Dylan Carson - Give it a rest - there is no infrastructure to ship the alfalfa water from the Imperial Valley north.

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dylan Carlson
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 24, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Steve, you're incorrect. I had read that article before I even posted in this thread.

This is a state-level policy problem. It's about a disproportionate punitive action against 10% of the problem, while ignoring the 90%.

This is not about shipping Imperial Valley water here. You should also be on the right side of the issue whether to drain the Colorado dry to grow stuff like alfalfa in the desert. There are in fact alfalfa farms in other parts of the state, eg Central Valley. It doesn't change the wasteful nature of the crop.

In practical terms, the state is allowing a water-wasting crop to grow without penalty in an extreme drought. We are shipping tons of water overseas. And that's basically free water.

Add to this, an increasing number of those farms are being bought up by foreign investors. Do you see an ethical problem with giving free water to alfalfa farms owned by foreign investors, and then simultaneously punishing tax-paying residents with $500 fine per offense because their lawn is too green?

This is one of the most schizophrenic policies the state has ever adopted.

We haven't even gotten into other export crops like almond farms (which IIRC is another 10% of the water consumption by itself.)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by @ Dylan
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 24, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Well guess what, non foreign investors also have the opportunity to do the same. So you are just ranting.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dylan Carlson
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Can you comment on the facts and outcomes, or are you only capable of sniping?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by p
a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 24, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I'm happy to conserve but I would like to see the local authorities who govern the master plan actually PLAN for a change.

Where is the proof that we have enough water available for all the new housing being built? Is that even part of what is considered when they approve new housing? They clearly don't consider the load on the streets, the number of kids added to the schools or much else as far as I can tell. What DO they actually consider when they "plan"?

We all have to eat but we don't all have to live HERE. Unless the infrastructure supports it, building more housing units does nothing but visit misery on the people who are already here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dylan Carlson
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 24, 2014 at 7:29 pm

@p

There is the Mountain View 2030 General Plan, found here: Web Link

Then there are EIRs which are prepared in consideration of each development. For example, for the San Antonio development Web Link

In the above EIR, getting potable water to homes is not really an issue. That's my point above -- if we stopped alfalfa farming, we'd recover more than enough to mitigate any urban usage.

If you read through the EIR, the primary issues with "water" are wastewater treatment and stormwater drainage. But those issues present regardless of commercial or residential development. A hive of workers will still flush toilets as residents do, but at much greater density.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Randy
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Jul 24, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Here is the link to the Mountain View Voice Article referencing the poor water planning done two years ago. It is very interesting rereading it again:

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 25, 2014 at 9:40 am

"In practical terms, the state is allowing a water-wasting crop to grow without penalty in an extreme drought. We are shipping tons of water overseas. And that's basically free water. "

@Dylan Carson, as I said, at the moment there is no way to use that water to alleviate shortages caused by the drought. You can make speeches about policy, and rant about foreign investment. But the alfalfa produced in the Imperial Valley is irrelevant to fines for pumping drinking water down the storm drains.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 25, 2014 at 9:41 am

"punishing tax-paying residents with $500 fine per offense because their lawn is too green"

Hogwash. The fine is for runoff onto the street and sidewalk.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 25, 2014 at 9:44 am

"referencing the poor water planning done two years ago. "

Buying too much water is not poor planning. As you might deduce, it is not possible to predict the exact amount of water needed.

On the other hand, buying too little water would be disastrous.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 25, 2014 at 9:49 am

@Dylan Carlson

"In practical terms, the state is allowing a water-wasting crop to grow without penalty in an extreme drought"

Farmers purchase water in auctions. They are paying up to $3000/acre-foot during the drought, versus the $100/acre-foot they would pay during non-drought.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 25, 2014 at 9:53 am

... cont'd

"It's about a disproportionate punitive action against 10% of the problem, while ignoring the 90%."

Farmers are paying 10-20-30x for water, and the price of residential water has not changing. It's the farmers that are suffering from the drought. Residents are only fined for running water onto the street.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mathishard
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 25, 2014 at 10:28 am

Steve--you are completely wrong. If a residential user wants to use as much water as a farmer, that would place them in the highest rate tier, which is almost $5k for an acre-foot.

Personally, I think its fundamentally STUPID to take perfectly good drinking water and dump it on plants. With all the people around the world dying of thirst, can you imagine what it looks like to them to see us spraying LIFE all over the place???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dylan Carlson
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm

@Steve It's really hard to have a conversation with someone who doesn't seem to understand proportions.

Let's try this another way.

The alfalfa and almond businesses together consume close to 30% of the state's water. Their combined export value is around $6 billion/year. Profits (after taxes, etc) for the entire agriculture industry is around $16 billion/year. They're not exactly hurting for money so pls stop with this "suffering farmer" storyline, it's simply not true.

"The last four years have been the best ever. I've made millions when in years past I've lost millions." -- Ronnie Leimgruber, 53, an alfalfa farmer in the Imperial Valley

Now see, this is about money from the state government down to the ground, not conservation. In agriculture, the state monetizes water consumption a few ways. They don't monetize urban consumption even though urban consumers pay a much higher rate. So they impose fines.

Even if urban consumption scaled back 30% that'd only be 3-4% of the total consumption. It hardly moves the needle on the drought problem. But the state will have brought in a lot of fine revenue, and it's anybody's guess where that fine revenue goes or how it is used. Probably not for water efficiency tech.

If the state were truly serious about conservation, there are lots of ways they could squeeze more efficiency out of the agriculture. Half of all irrigated water is lost to evaporation. Any improvement to agriculture makes a meaningful change to the drought and consumption problem.

In an extreme drought, IMO, the state should be imposing limits on water-hungry crops, and increasing efficiency standards with its use. The drought affects everyone. Imperial Valley might not be on California water, but it's still a drought and they are cutting into downstream supply by growing stuff that shouldn't be.

As mentioned, there are ways of growing crops that can use 1-5% of the water they currently do, using solar-powered indoor LED farms. But these concepts get lost in the ignorant rhetoric of water wars and ham-fisted punitive steps against the least of the problem.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palau
a resident of North Bayshore
on Sep 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm

On my way to work this morning around 6:30 am, I saw this building on the corner of marine way and casey ave with its sprinklers splashing all over the lawn and it looks like it has been running for a while cause it has started to flood the street. On my lunch hour around 11:30 am, I drove by the same building and the sprinklers are still on and the street is flooding.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by recycled
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 3, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Next time you see this, pull over and cup your hands to collect some. Drink it. If it tastes funny, then it is recycled non-potable water.

More info:
Web Link

That is water that will be dumped back in the bay anyway, so probably isn't under water restriction.


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