Water use decreasing, city finds

Economic recession, local initiatives and other changes lead to increased conservation

The economic recession appears to have been good for water conservation, with total water use in 2009 reported to be the lowest in Mountain View since the mid-1990s.

The city used about a billion gallons less in 2009 than in 1997, when water use peaked at 13.25 million gallons per day. Last year, an average of 11 million gallons per day were used.

There are several reasons for the downturn, said Elizabeth Flegel, the city's water conservation coordinator. A declining economy causes businesses to cut water costs. Drought-tolerant landscaping has become popular, as have water-efficient faucets, shower heads and toilets. And Mountain View is no longer home to a number of computer component manufacturing companies which used more water than the office buildings that replaced them.

Several city initiatives may help lower water use. The city's new recycled water system north of Highway 101, which waters Shoreline Park and Google's landscaping, is capable of reducing the city's water use by 1 million gallons a day. If expanded south of Highway 101, the system could save millions more, said Greg Hosfeldt, assistant public works director.

Meanwhile, a green building code is in the early stages of development that may call for water-efficient faucets and fixtures in new Mountain View developments. Several cities on the Peninsula are working on similar indoor water-use regulations, Flegel said.

New rules for outdoor water use are in the works as well: As reported last week, the city is proposing to require water-efficient landscaping on new developments. City staffers hosted a public hearing on the issue last Wednesday evening, and a handful of residents attended to put forth, among other concerns, the question of who exactly would be subjected to the ordinance.

Flegel said it would only apply to major new development projects which require planning permits -- typical homeowners would not be effected.

Others at the meeting asked about a proposed requirement for separate irrigation water meters for large landscapes; who would be qualified to draw up landscaping plans; and how greywater and rainwater would be factored into the regulations.

So far the city has taken the carrot approach to water conservation by working with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to provide incentives for water conservation. Many businesses may be unaware that water efficient toilets and faucets for businesses can be obtained for free from the Water District. Cash rebates are available for those who replace high water use landscaping with water efficient landscaping -- up to $2,000 for homeowners and $20,000 for businesses. And those who are unsure about what they can do to save water can have someone visit their home for a free "water wise" estimate.

For more information, call the city's water conservation hotline at (650) 903-6216.


Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm

USA is a registered user.

"There are several reasons for the downturn, said Elizabeth Flegel, the city's water conservation coordinator."

Ummm, maybe it rained a lot?

Like this comment
Posted by Ben
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm

We can treat water problems like traffic problems – claimed water solutions: low flush toilets, water-efficient faucets,etc. - claimed traffic problem solutions: solved by diamond lines, metering light, light rail, bus only lanes, etc.

All these solutions are, in the end, limited when the full tilt “smart growth” buzzword con turns into dumb growth - water shortage, and stop and almost go traffic congestion.

Like this comment
Posted by Bizarre logic
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 2, 2010 at 7:12 am

Here you go with your bizarre logic again, Ben. So water use is down by almost *twenty* percent over the past 12 years while the city's population has grown, and this is somehow just a 'buzzword con', a set of gimmicks to pull the wool over all our eyes?

Like this comment
Posted by Kristine
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 9, 2011 at 7:17 pm

of course water use goes down with rising population. The biggest culprit in water use is landscaping. We've already reached to point that future growth will cut total landscaping of our town as buildings are put over land where we earlier put lawns.

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