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Guest opinion: What Mountain View residents can do amid another severe drought

Water flows down Stevens Creek by the Google Crittenden campus in Mountain View's North Bayshore area on March 4, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

On June 28, the Mountain View City Council passed a resolution declaring a stage 2 Drought Emergency. The associated rules are on the city's webiste. The water provider for most of our county, Valley Water, has asked for a 15% reduction, but the water provider for most of Mountain View, the San Francisco Public Utilities District, has asked for a 11% reduction.

Right now water conservation is vitally important. Not only are we in the third consecutive year of a drought, but we are also in the driest 20-year period in over 1200 years. It's overwhelming. What should/can we do? Well the answer is a lot. Let's talk a little about both short and long-term efforts that are needed. If this is as far as you plan to read, remember to water your trees. A good soak, once a month is needed.

Right now, we need to reduce our collective water use by between 11% and 25% for the stage 2 drought emergency. Figuring out what produces that percentage is confusing. After all, we only get our water bill every 2 months. In Mountain View, you can check on the city's website by your account at WaterInsight.MountainView.gov to see how this year's water use compares to last year's. Commercial meters are also available to install on your house.

For most of us, the way to know is by making operational changes in our water use. Water engineers have figured out what amount of water generally goes with what uses. In California about half of our water use is for irrigating landscaping. So if you would normally water your landscaping three times per week and you cut back to 2 times per week, chances are you will meet the 15% reduction being called for by Valley Water. The stage 2 rules have more specific Do's and Don'ts which are designed to provide the needed reduction.

Leaks are also a huge waste of water. Industry estimates find 10% to 13% of residential water use is through leaks. The city notifies customers when a water leak is suspected. Depending on how bad it is, you'll get a letter, a door-hanger or a phone call. Homeowners are expected to find and fix their own leaks, but city staff will help you figure it out. We reported a leak on the city side of the meter last summer and they were there to fix in within 30 minutes.

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Long term

If you feel like you have been conserving water for a long time, that's because you have. Since the drought of 1976-77, California has gone to tremendous efforts to use water more efficiently. We have all been educated to only run our clothes and dishwashers with full loads, turn off the water while we brush our teeth, collect cold water from the shower for plants, install low-water use toilets, remove lawns and replace with native plants. The results of these collective efforts have been successful. As a state, we use nearly the same amount of water we used in the 1960's but for almost 3 times the population and much more agricultural production.

In Mountain View, our water use peaked in the 1980's at about 16,000 acre-feet per year, but now it's about 10,000 acre-feet.

But with Climate Change, we know the water supply which comes largely from the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is much less reliable. The forecasts are that more precipitation will be rain and less snow. Since the snowpack is the reservoir for our state, that's a big problem. Using water more efficiently and effectively is more important than ever. Matching the quality of water needed to the use; using recycled water or greywater where appropriate and safe is becoming a more significant way to meet our water supply needs.

Increasing our use of recycled water is something that gives me hope. Mountain View has had a purple pipe system to supply recycled water to the North Bayshore for irrigation since the 1980's. Our recycled water is tertiary-treated wastewater. The supply of recycled water has always been greater than the demand, because the water was too salty for irrigating some plants – particularly redwoods, citrus and some grasses. The number of times this water could cycle through cooling towers was also less than optimal.

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An advanced purification facility called the Local Salt Removal Facility is in design for the Palo Alto Wastewater Treatment Plant. Basically, water that has already gone through the standard tertiary treatment will be treated even more with techniques generally used for desalination, like reverse osmosis. This ultra-pure water will be blended with the tertiary-treated wastewater to produce a high quality recycled water. It will be distributed to our North Bayshore for non-potable uses. Many thanks to the staff of the Palo Alto Treatment Plant for their work on this new processing facility. There are some financing issues from construction cost increases that have to be resolved. If our grant application is successful, water may be available from this new facility in a few short years.

Because I spent over 30 years working in water resources management, I could talk for hours about these issues, call or write if you would like to hear more, or share your ideas and concerns.

Pat Showalter is a Mountain View City Council member. She recently retired from Valley Water after working at the district for 15 years, can be reached at [email protected]

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Guest opinion: What Mountain View residents can do amid another severe drought

by Pat Showalter /

Uploaded: Sun, Jul 3, 2022, 8:05 am
Updated: Tue, Jul 5, 2022, 1:44 pm

On June 28, the Mountain View City Council passed a resolution declaring a stage 2 Drought Emergency. The associated rules are on the city's webiste. The water provider for most of our county, Valley Water, has asked for a 15% reduction, but the water provider for most of Mountain View, the San Francisco Public Utilities District, has asked for a 11% reduction.

Right now water conservation is vitally important. Not only are we in the third consecutive year of a drought, but we are also in the driest 20-year period in over 1200 years. It's overwhelming. What should/can we do? Well the answer is a lot. Let's talk a little about both short and long-term efforts that are needed. If this is as far as you plan to read, remember to water your trees. A good soak, once a month is needed.

Right now, we need to reduce our collective water use by between 11% and 25% for the stage 2 drought emergency. Figuring out what produces that percentage is confusing. After all, we only get our water bill every 2 months. In Mountain View, you can check on the city's website by your account at WaterInsight.MountainView.gov to see how this year's water use compares to last year's. Commercial meters are also available to install on your house.

For most of us, the way to know is by making operational changes in our water use. Water engineers have figured out what amount of water generally goes with what uses. In California about half of our water use is for irrigating landscaping. So if you would normally water your landscaping three times per week and you cut back to 2 times per week, chances are you will meet the 15% reduction being called for by Valley Water. The stage 2 rules have more specific Do's and Don'ts which are designed to provide the needed reduction.

Leaks are also a huge waste of water. Industry estimates find 10% to 13% of residential water use is through leaks. The city notifies customers when a water leak is suspected. Depending on how bad it is, you'll get a letter, a door-hanger or a phone call. Homeowners are expected to find and fix their own leaks, but city staff will help you figure it out. We reported a leak on the city side of the meter last summer and they were there to fix in within 30 minutes.

Long term

If you feel like you have been conserving water for a long time, that's because you have. Since the drought of 1976-77, California has gone to tremendous efforts to use water more efficiently. We have all been educated to only run our clothes and dishwashers with full loads, turn off the water while we brush our teeth, collect cold water from the shower for plants, install low-water use toilets, remove lawns and replace with native plants. The results of these collective efforts have been successful. As a state, we use nearly the same amount of water we used in the 1960's but for almost 3 times the population and much more agricultural production.

In Mountain View, our water use peaked in the 1980's at about 16,000 acre-feet per year, but now it's about 10,000 acre-feet.

But with Climate Change, we know the water supply which comes largely from the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is much less reliable. The forecasts are that more precipitation will be rain and less snow. Since the snowpack is the reservoir for our state, that's a big problem. Using water more efficiently and effectively is more important than ever. Matching the quality of water needed to the use; using recycled water or greywater where appropriate and safe is becoming a more significant way to meet our water supply needs.

Increasing our use of recycled water is something that gives me hope. Mountain View has had a purple pipe system to supply recycled water to the North Bayshore for irrigation since the 1980's. Our recycled water is tertiary-treated wastewater. The supply of recycled water has always been greater than the demand, because the water was too salty for irrigating some plants – particularly redwoods, citrus and some grasses. The number of times this water could cycle through cooling towers was also less than optimal.

An advanced purification facility called the Local Salt Removal Facility is in design for the Palo Alto Wastewater Treatment Plant. Basically, water that has already gone through the standard tertiary treatment will be treated even more with techniques generally used for desalination, like reverse osmosis. This ultra-pure water will be blended with the tertiary-treated wastewater to produce a high quality recycled water. It will be distributed to our North Bayshore for non-potable uses. Many thanks to the staff of the Palo Alto Treatment Plant for their work on this new processing facility. There are some financing issues from construction cost increases that have to be resolved. If our grant application is successful, water may be available from this new facility in a few short years.

Because I spent over 30 years working in water resources management, I could talk for hours about these issues, call or write if you would like to hear more, or share your ideas and concerns.

Pat Showalter is a Mountain View City Council member. She recently retired from Valley Water after working at the district for 15 years, can be reached at [email protected]

Comments

People Need Water
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Jul 3, 2022 at 1:39 pm
People Need Water, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Jul 3, 2022 at 1:39 pm

How about don't vote for things that will increase the human population, or anything that incentivizes more people to come here


My Two Cents
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Jul 3, 2022 at 4:36 pm
My Two Cents, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Jul 3, 2022 at 4:36 pm

This is such an important topic that deserves a lot more attention from residents, businesses, and the city.


Lauritzen
Registered user
Gemello
on Jul 4, 2022 at 12:37 pm
Lauritzen, Gemello
Registered user
on Jul 4, 2022 at 12:37 pm

As I recall, we are not using our allotted treated waste water by a large percentage. Why not lay down a pipeline to bring some across 101 and closer to downtown? Think out of the box. Maybe run a pipe along a creek bed such a Permanente Creek?


Resident
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jul 4, 2022 at 9:49 pm
Resident , Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jul 4, 2022 at 9:49 pm

How about investing in a desalination plant? Take water from the bay and release mountain view residents from the dependency on claimant.
Yes, water will cost more, but people will have the option to buy water if they want and progressive fare system will allow everyone to get their basic needs at a reasonable cost.

Look at how Israel did it- built multiple desalination plants and use the expensive water for residential use. Farmers still get the cheaper rain water to keep food cost lower.


People Need Water
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Jul 6, 2022 at 8:18 am
People Need Water, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 8:18 am

Desalination plants are so bad for the environment. Anything you propose besides population control will only exacerbate the problems we're experiencing


Lauritzen
Registered user
Gemello
on Jul 6, 2022 at 1:49 pm
Lauritzen, Gemello
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 1:49 pm

Almost all of our waste water is drained into the bay. Why bother with something as expensive and troublesome as desalination when we have a perfectly good source such as waste water?


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Jul 6, 2022 at 2:41 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 2:41 pm

Our waste water is processed in Palo Alto in a plant shared with Stanford, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. Secondary sewage water is mostly dumped into the Bay but there are major existing users for landscaping at Stanford (nearly the whole campus) and in other places including the Google area north of 101 in Mountain View. Some of the waste water is pumped back into the ground up in the area near he sewage treatment plant to replenish the water table, but there's a limit as to how much can go that route.

Gary Kremen has this plan to build very long pipeline such that it could be pumped back down around San Jose where Valley water has a lot of percolation ponds which are a good way to get the water back into the water table. He said use Palo Alto's treatment plant as a source.

One very interesting thing is that if you look at the proposed route of his pipeline, about halfway down its lenght, it passes right near Sunnuvale's treatment pland--begging the question, why suck out of Palo Alto rather than build a shorter pipeline and take in the out flow of Sunnyvale?

For years, Valley Water has been buying water and pumping it into the ground in the central valley, "baking it" so that Valley Water can call on the bank when the water is needed. The only thing is, there's no real way to tap that bank.

Valley Water is generally mismanaged over a vwry long time. We need some new blood there. They mess up over and ove.


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