News

City toughens up water restrictions

Council approves twice-a-week landscape watering, funding for conservation outreach

Keeping your lawn alive just got a little more difficult. Following state-mandated requirements to reduce water use, Mountain View City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to adopt a plan that would reduce the city's water usage by restricting, among other things, landscape irrigation to only two days per week.

The city of Mountain View will be required, by the state, to reduce its water use by 16 percent compared to 2013, which amounts to about 500 million gallons over the next nine months. The number sounds daunting, but the city has already reduced its water usage by 13 percent and would only need to save an additional 180 million gallons on top of what residents have already saved.

To get over the hump and avoid a daily fine from the state of $10,000 for failing to comply, the city imposed restrictions that would only allow landscape watering two times a week beginning in June. Odd-numbered addresses will be able to water on Monday and Thursday, and even-numbered addresses will be able to water on Tuesday and Friday. Each watering period will be limited to 15 minutes.

The watering restriction would save the city an estimated 171 million gallons of water between now and June next year, assuming people were watering an average of four days per week in 2013.

If Mountain View residents stick to the new requirements, the city is expected to breeze past its 16 percent reduction in the coming year, according to Greg Hosfeldt, the city's assistant public works director. Between the new watering restrictions and reducing water budgets at parks and golf courses, the city is expected to drop use by between 570 to 633 million gallons this year, Hosfeldt said.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

"We're not necessarily trying to stop right at 16 percent, ideally we'd like to go beyond that," Hosfeldt said. "(With) another year or two of drought, we'll be tasked with even more conservation requirements."

City Council also approved an extra $292,000 for drought response programs by the city, which would go towards mailing water use reports to water users, testing the city's smart meter program and sending out informational mailers, fliers and signs supporting reduced water use.

Lawns and other landscaping tend to be the target of new requirements from the state, and now from the city, because it's one of the largest non-essential uses of water. Landscape irrigation accounts for about one-third of the city's total water use, of which 23 percent is "large" landscaping such as parks, according to Elizabeth Flegel, the city's water conservation coordinator.

Council member Lenny Siegel voted against the decision, saying there should be more leniency in how residents reach their reduction target, rather than being told what days they can water and for how many minutes. People are cutting back in different ways, Siegel said, such as letting the backyard lawn die to keep the front lawn green.

"When we start getting to telling people exactly when and how long they're going to water, then I'm uncomfortable," Siegel said. "People know there's a shortage of water, everybody is trying to conserve it. But people have different priorities on how they want to do it."

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

If the city goes ahead with the strict landscape watering requirements, Siegel said it would be pretty hard to enforce, would take tons of staff time and would be incredibly expensive compared enforcing lower overall water usage rates compared to previous years.

"You'd have to go out to my house all night every night with a stopwatch to find out how much my sprinklers are on," he said.

While council ultimately voted for the watering restrictions, council members John Inks, Mike Kasperzak and Chris Clark all supported having staff looking into a performance-based model for individual residents, rather than a "prescriptive" approach with enforced landscaping restrictions.

Of the $292,000 in funds, $100,000 is allocated to test new smart meter technology that the city could use to give residents quick updates on how much water they're using, rather than a monthly or bimonthly report. Kasperzak urged city staff to accelerate the implementation of city's smart metering program post-haste, and expressed concerns that they were moving too slow.

"It seems like we're just processing this as a usual sort of thing when we're in a crisis, and we ought to be doing things as fast as we humanly can," Kasperzak said.

Mike Fuller, the city's public works director, said putting the smart meter program in the fast lane would take a great deal of staff time and resources amid the new restrictions and the "tremendous traffic" of questions and complaints from Mountain View residents regarding water conservation. By focusing on the water use mailer programs, he said, they will be sure to reach more people with a method that is known to be effective.

"We felt that the mailer program that we recommended, considering the limited resources we have and the tremendous workload associated with the drought, that it's a better use of staff because it's a known way forward," Fuller said.

Kasperzak, skeptical, said residents could do a whole lot more with "real instant feedback" that smart meters can provide.

The new water use restrictions do not include the use of recycled water, meaning the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water used to irrigate landscapes in North Bayshore and golf courses will not need to be cut back. Hosfeldt said there's plenty of room to expand that recycled water use.

Mountain View falls well short of the 3 million gallons of recycled water they are budgeted for by the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant, and it's just a matter of hooking up new customers.

"We will be using additional staff resources to reach out and more aggressively pursue those additional users who have not connected yet," Hosfeldt said.

Cutting back in North Bayshore

The grass isn't always greener on the other side of Highway 101, where Google has been particularly successful reducing the water use in and around its company headquarters, using anything from high-tech solutions like water-recycling laundry machines to simply letting lawns get a little brown.

The company has reduced its water usage by 25 percent since 2013 and is continuing to find ways to cut down, according to a Google spokesperson. The company has removed over 750,000 square feet of landscaping and converted it to drought-resistant plants, which is expected to save 26 million gallons of water each year, the spokesperson said.

Google has also partnered up with laundry water recycling company zNano to pilot technology that will recycle 80 percent of the water used in laundry machines, and startup company Nebia for new shower head technology that, again, would use about 80 percent less water.

While the company has been using recycled water for landscaping whenever possible, the spokesperson said, all irrigation that uses drinkable water has been dialed back while still keeping the trees alive.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

City toughens up water restrictions

Council approves twice-a-week landscape watering, funding for conservation outreach

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, May 21, 2015, 6:48 pm

Keeping your lawn alive just got a little more difficult. Following state-mandated requirements to reduce water use, Mountain View City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to adopt a plan that would reduce the city's water usage by restricting, among other things, landscape irrigation to only two days per week.

The city of Mountain View will be required, by the state, to reduce its water use by 16 percent compared to 2013, which amounts to about 500 million gallons over the next nine months. The number sounds daunting, but the city has already reduced its water usage by 13 percent and would only need to save an additional 180 million gallons on top of what residents have already saved.

To get over the hump and avoid a daily fine from the state of $10,000 for failing to comply, the city imposed restrictions that would only allow landscape watering two times a week beginning in June. Odd-numbered addresses will be able to water on Monday and Thursday, and even-numbered addresses will be able to water on Tuesday and Friday. Each watering period will be limited to 15 minutes.

The watering restriction would save the city an estimated 171 million gallons of water between now and June next year, assuming people were watering an average of four days per week in 2013.

If Mountain View residents stick to the new requirements, the city is expected to breeze past its 16 percent reduction in the coming year, according to Greg Hosfeldt, the city's assistant public works director. Between the new watering restrictions and reducing water budgets at parks and golf courses, the city is expected to drop use by between 570 to 633 million gallons this year, Hosfeldt said.

"We're not necessarily trying to stop right at 16 percent, ideally we'd like to go beyond that," Hosfeldt said. "(With) another year or two of drought, we'll be tasked with even more conservation requirements."

City Council also approved an extra $292,000 for drought response programs by the city, which would go towards mailing water use reports to water users, testing the city's smart meter program and sending out informational mailers, fliers and signs supporting reduced water use.

Lawns and other landscaping tend to be the target of new requirements from the state, and now from the city, because it's one of the largest non-essential uses of water. Landscape irrigation accounts for about one-third of the city's total water use, of which 23 percent is "large" landscaping such as parks, according to Elizabeth Flegel, the city's water conservation coordinator.

Council member Lenny Siegel voted against the decision, saying there should be more leniency in how residents reach their reduction target, rather than being told what days they can water and for how many minutes. People are cutting back in different ways, Siegel said, such as letting the backyard lawn die to keep the front lawn green.

"When we start getting to telling people exactly when and how long they're going to water, then I'm uncomfortable," Siegel said. "People know there's a shortage of water, everybody is trying to conserve it. But people have different priorities on how they want to do it."

If the city goes ahead with the strict landscape watering requirements, Siegel said it would be pretty hard to enforce, would take tons of staff time and would be incredibly expensive compared enforcing lower overall water usage rates compared to previous years.

"You'd have to go out to my house all night every night with a stopwatch to find out how much my sprinklers are on," he said.

While council ultimately voted for the watering restrictions, council members John Inks, Mike Kasperzak and Chris Clark all supported having staff looking into a performance-based model for individual residents, rather than a "prescriptive" approach with enforced landscaping restrictions.

Of the $292,000 in funds, $100,000 is allocated to test new smart meter technology that the city could use to give residents quick updates on how much water they're using, rather than a monthly or bimonthly report. Kasperzak urged city staff to accelerate the implementation of city's smart metering program post-haste, and expressed concerns that they were moving too slow.

"It seems like we're just processing this as a usual sort of thing when we're in a crisis, and we ought to be doing things as fast as we humanly can," Kasperzak said.

Mike Fuller, the city's public works director, said putting the smart meter program in the fast lane would take a great deal of staff time and resources amid the new restrictions and the "tremendous traffic" of questions and complaints from Mountain View residents regarding water conservation. By focusing on the water use mailer programs, he said, they will be sure to reach more people with a method that is known to be effective.

"We felt that the mailer program that we recommended, considering the limited resources we have and the tremendous workload associated with the drought, that it's a better use of staff because it's a known way forward," Fuller said.

Kasperzak, skeptical, said residents could do a whole lot more with "real instant feedback" that smart meters can provide.

The new water use restrictions do not include the use of recycled water, meaning the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water used to irrigate landscapes in North Bayshore and golf courses will not need to be cut back. Hosfeldt said there's plenty of room to expand that recycled water use.

Mountain View falls well short of the 3 million gallons of recycled water they are budgeted for by the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant, and it's just a matter of hooking up new customers.

"We will be using additional staff resources to reach out and more aggressively pursue those additional users who have not connected yet," Hosfeldt said.

Cutting back in North Bayshore

The grass isn't always greener on the other side of Highway 101, where Google has been particularly successful reducing the water use in and around its company headquarters, using anything from high-tech solutions like water-recycling laundry machines to simply letting lawns get a little brown.

The company has reduced its water usage by 25 percent since 2013 and is continuing to find ways to cut down, according to a Google spokesperson. The company has removed over 750,000 square feet of landscaping and converted it to drought-resistant plants, which is expected to save 26 million gallons of water each year, the spokesperson said.

Google has also partnered up with laundry water recycling company zNano to pilot technology that will recycle 80 percent of the water used in laundry machines, and startup company Nebia for new shower head technology that, again, would use about 80 percent less water.

While the company has been using recycled water for landscaping whenever possible, the spokesperson said, all irrigation that uses drinkable water has been dialed back while still keeping the trees alive.

Comments

Reader
another community
on May 21, 2015 at 8:12 pm
Reader, another community
on May 21, 2015 at 8:12 pm

"The watering restriction would save the city an estimated 171 gallons of water between now and June next year, assuming people were watering an average of four days per week in 2013."

Hmmm, 171 gallons of water saved over twelve months doesn't sound like much. But I guess one must start somewhere.


Editing?
Shoreline West
on May 21, 2015 at 8:20 pm
Editing?, Shoreline West
on May 21, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Kevin: did you omit "millions" in you statistics? Or are you talking about gallons per day per resident?


Redo1979
Registered user
Rex Manor
on May 22, 2015 at 7:12 am
Redo1979, Rex Manor
Registered user
on May 22, 2015 at 7:12 am

Better late than never, in terms of water restrictions. Who voted against this on the council? I'm curious to hear his/her short-sided, fairytale-land, pompous reason for voting no.


No Sprinklers Since March
Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2015 at 9:41 am
No Sprinklers Since March, Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2015 at 9:41 am

Grey water users can water any day. Why let bath or shower water just flow into the sewer when you can use it again in your yard? Its a huge improvement on how things look, AND we're using about 35% less water without much effort.


True
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on May 22, 2015 at 11:58 am
True, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on May 22, 2015 at 11:58 am

What is the watering schedule for the Mountain View Schools landscaping & athletic fields, for Mountain View Parks, for Public golf courses and for Mountain View roadway landscaping?


Rethink The Plan
Cuesta Park
on May 22, 2015 at 12:32 pm
Rethink The Plan, Cuesta Park
on May 22, 2015 at 12:32 pm

With just 2 days of 15 minutes each, I don't see how any grass lawn can survive. I'm not opposed to doing my part including possibly killing off my lawn, but we need to make sure this is a smart strategy.

What I'd rather see is this plan being phased in more gradually, e.g. 3x per week and much higher water rates for usage about a certain tier of gallons / week. I realize it looks ugly to have a green lawn during a water crisis but the enemy isn't lawns, it's anyone with high water usage. The city knows exactly how much water each residential unit is using, or at least for the houses, so why isn't it using this data?

With 80% of California water usage being used for commercial purposes and just 20% for residential, and with almonds in specific requiring about a gallon per nut (!) we might not have our priorities straight on this. Any cut in water usage is 5 times more effective for commercial use than for residential.

I commend the city for taking action, but it seems like there's a smarter approach.


No Sprinklers Since March
Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2015 at 12:47 pm
No Sprinklers Since March, Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2015 at 12:47 pm

@Rethink the Plan: You should read my post above. With MV soil's great water retaining clay base, things can naturally get by with less watering. Couple that with using recycled water and you could be all set. With ZERO watering since March, my yard looks better now that it did before March! The addition of grey water has been the key, and we are in control of that. No restrictions on when we can water with grey water. I'm gonna kick this drought's butt ;) If no rains come next winter, it will call for more extreme ideas, maybe including the washer and dishwasher, we'll see.

Rather than pointing at others and proclaiming "Problem", point at yourself and proclaim "Solution!"


@True
another community
on May 22, 2015 at 12:56 pm
@True, another community
on May 22, 2015 at 12:56 pm

"Large" landscapes are not subject to the watering schedule restriction. Instead, they will be given a water budget and achieve savings to come 20% under that budget.

If they fail that target two months in a row, they would then go to the watering schedule.


@Reader
North Bayshore
on May 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm
@Reader, North Bayshore
on May 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Not just that sentence is wrong. Also "the city is expected to drop use by between 570 to 633 gallons this year, Hosfeldt said."


Trying to Save
Blossom Valley
on May 22, 2015 at 2:18 pm
Trying to Save, Blossom Valley
on May 22, 2015 at 2:18 pm

@Rethink The Plan

"With just 2 days of 15 minutes each, I don't see how any grass lawn can survive."

I've actually been doing just exactly that for the last 15+ years. Water late evening, 15 minutes each section, the day I mow lawns and mid-week. That is with lawns that are fully exposed to sunlight almost all day. Winter I won't water at all. Since last November, however, I think I have watered 5, maybe 6 times at most. Lawns looked good until this year.


glenn Meier
Blossom Valley
on May 22, 2015 at 2:37 pm
glenn Meier, Blossom Valley
on May 22, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Lenny Siegel's comments make a ton of sense. I water once every 5 days which is less than twice a week but it doesn't always fall on my prescribed days. This restrictive approach is bogus. I also think the staffs comments sound LAZY.


Ever Bought a Drip Timer?
Sylvan Park
on May 22, 2015 at 2:40 pm
Ever Bought a Drip Timer?, Sylvan Park
on May 22, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Anyone ever bought a drip system Timer? They want us to use drip as it is the most efficient way to water, right? Most every current drip timer is configured by choosing the number of days between watering cycles, not the days of the week. The last time I checked, we have an odd number of days in each week. Thus, one week I may start out with Tuesday and Friday but not the next week and not the next, etc

So, how do we comply with the silly day of the week requirement? I tend to water every 4 days for five minutes, well below the ask, but due to my timers that I purchased from OSH, the water police will be angry with me......

Shouldn't our savings be based on water usage instead of some arbitrary rules that are base on the uninformed??

Ideas? Btw, most of my plants are herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees, shouldn't food be exempt? I'm not growing any Almonds!!


Micromanaged
Cuernavaca
on May 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm
Micromanaged, Cuernavaca
on May 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Tell me the number I need to reach and penalize me if I don't get there. But don't mandate HOW I hit my number. Let people decide on their own tradeoffs.

For lawn, isn't 4 days at 7 minutes more efficient for the lawn than 2 days at 15 minutes?


MVResident67
Cuesta Park
on May 22, 2015 at 4:27 pm
MVResident67, Cuesta Park
on May 22, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Restricting residents to watering any outdoor landscaping to 15 minutes on 2 pre-set days of the week seems ridiculous, and practically speaking, very difficult and potentially very expensive to enforce - if it is realistically enforceable at all.

Are the water police going to be circling neighborhoods night and day, checking addresses against the day of the week and prowling in backyards with stopwatches running looking for violators to fine? Seriously?

How about setting monthly targets for residents and letting them DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES how they are going to achieve their water saving goals?

I am totally on board with making every effort to reduce water usage by whatever amount is deemed necessary and then some if I am able, but I tend to draw the law at government dictating what days of the week I can use water for a particular purpose. Is it okay if I flush my toilet more than once a day, or are we going to be issued permits good for only 30 flushes a month?

Slippery slope stuff.


Marcin Romaszewicz
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on May 25, 2015 at 9:34 pm
Marcin Romaszewicz, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on May 25, 2015 at 9:34 pm

Driving down El Camino in the morning today, I noticed giant pools of water in the street from the city sprinklers drenching the plants in the median. It would be nice if the city's rules applied to themselves too.


Lazy MV
Cuesta Park
on May 25, 2015 at 11:49 pm
Lazy MV, Cuesta Park
on May 25, 2015 at 11:49 pm

It's entertaining to read the comments complaining about restricting water usage on ornamental landscapes during a DROUGHT! It's even amusing to note that the same people who don't want to conserve water during a DROUGHT also oppose having a fast, efficient public transit option available on El Camino.

Hopefully this level of intelligent thinking is in a dwindling minority. Greed and short-sightedness like that will doom us all....


Amazed
Old Mountain View
on May 26, 2015 at 5:12 am
Amazed, Old Mountain View
on May 26, 2015 at 5:12 am

Lazy MV. You stated........

" It's even amusing to note that the same people who don't want to conserve water during a DROUGHT also oppose having a fast, efficient public transit option available on El Camino.

Hopefully this level of intelligent thinking is in a dwindling minority. Greed and short-sightedness like that will doom us all...."

We do actually wish to have fast, efficient and public transit options. BRT is not it in case you hadn't read anything or listened to anything. Wake up, some of the water rules miss the point as well. Days of the week is just an ignorant approach. Drought minding is well. But the current plan has no understanding of how long and how many showers are taken. The bigger controllable solution. Bottom line, to not base it on water usage and instead on arbitrary rules is blind.

Looking forward to being doomed if that is your definition.
Not shared by most that actually live here btw.


Days
Cuesta Park
on May 26, 2015 at 3:29 pm
Days, Cuesta Park
on May 26, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Why will enforcing days of the week cause the collapse of civilization as we know it? It makes enforcement possible. Most water waste comes from careless property owners who set up a watering schedule and forget it. Those water wasters will now be easily caught and they can be forced to stop wasting water.

Every time MV Voice posts a piece of news about changing the status quo, the same tired trolls wake up and start slamming the ideas. Of course their arguments are weak and their alternatives are either non-existent, highly damaging or simply impossible.


MVResident67
Cuesta Park
on May 26, 2015 at 4:56 pm
MVResident67, Cuesta Park
on May 26, 2015 at 4:56 pm

It's dictating the manner which residents use water which is problematic, as opposed to simply giving residents a water reduction number they need to hit in order to avoid a fine/penalty, and letting each individual resident decide for themselves how they will reach that number (achieve the water saving).

Practically speaking, are the water police going to be prowling in private backyards in the middle of the night watching/listening for sprinklers or drip irrigation systems at work? If so, I'm guess that the Mountain View police are going to be VERY busy with prowler calls, and hopefully some water minder won't be assaulted or something if they are skulking about on someone's private property.

Again, for those with comprehension issues...

~~~~~~~~~~

Restricting residents to watering any outdoor landscaping to 15 minutes on 2 pre-set days of the week seems ridiculous, and practically speaking, very difficult and potentially very expensive to enforce - if it is realistically enforceable at all.

Are the water police going to be circling neighborhoods night and day, checking addresses against the day of the week and prowling in backyards with stopwatches running looking for violators to fine? Seriously?

How about setting monthly targets for residents and letting them DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES how they are going to achieve their water saving goals?

I am TOTALLY ON BOARD with making every effort to reduce water usage by whatever amount is deemed necessary and then some if I am able, but I tend to draw the line at government dictating what days of the week I can use water for a particular purpose. Is it okay if I flush my toilet more than once a day, or are we going to be issued permits good for only 30 flushes a month?

Slippery slope stuff. Really, it is.


Ever Bought A Drip Timer?
Sylvan Park
on May 26, 2015 at 7:02 pm
Ever Bought A Drip Timer?, Sylvan Park
on May 26, 2015 at 7:02 pm

DAYS.........since you are soo smart and we are all idiots for questioning anything, I must deduce that you are a City Council Member?

Again, most commercially available drip system timers will not be able to follow these rules due to their design. Not due to a desire to object to every thing published in The Voice. Drip systems that are set up properly save a significant amount of water. Especially if you let them run on regular intervals. Again, this does not make me either a Troll or careless as you want us to believe.

Since no one on Council or apparently City Staff did any homework and you are soo smart Mr or Mrs DAYS, how do we use drip irrigation AND comply??


Days
Cuesta Park
on May 26, 2015 at 11:50 pm
Days, Cuesta Park
on May 26, 2015 at 11:50 pm

[Portion removed due to personal attack]

I'm happy that Mountain View is being aggressive in clamping down on the water hogs. With the Council approving the BRT project, I am truly glad to be a resident of this city.


Exemption
another community
on May 27, 2015 at 2:19 am
Exemption, another community
on May 27, 2015 at 2:19 am

The city's rules are just guidelines. They don't have water police out watching your yards between midnight and 5 am. The one thing that counts is the number of CCF charged on your bill It's really silly to put any other rules out there. Forget drip irrigation. If you find 15 minutes not enough, just get a hose timer and also add a couple of oscillating sprinklers out to augment your built in the ground sprinklers. Some systems are designed with rotary sprinklers that dont splat out all over their coverage area continuously during their cycle. Yeah, it sure makes sense to count that 15 minutes when 80% of the coverage are is not being wetted.

I don't think the city claims it is illegal to add sprinkler heads. So long as you limit each station to 15 minutes, you can have as many stations as you wish, according to the regulations. These are really well thought out plans.

Note that the state removed this crap from the draft regulations when they got real specific about assigning targets of 4%, 8%.... 28%, 32%, 36% supplier by supplier. It's a case of chickens running around with their heads off and making rules and regulations as they dance.

Oh yeah, and it's all because of BRT on El Camino. That's where the water went. Whats' with that guy?


VTA PROPAGANDA
another community
on May 27, 2015 at 8:04 am
VTA PROPAGANDA, another community
on May 27, 2015 at 8:04 am

The VTA has thousands of employees, consultants and other dependents with nothing better to do than post propaganda on articles in newspapers.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.