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District plans to get tough on water wasters

Original post made on Apr 7, 2015

Minimal rainfall marked the end of a dry winter season for California, and the end of the drought appears to be nowhere in sight. To keep dwindling water reserves from drying up, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is responding with an even more stringent call for water use reduction, and is looking at new ways to enforce fines on people who waste water.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, April 7, 2015, 1:52 PM

Comments (35)

Posted by LoveYourDNA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Hey! Let's keep building!!

Posted by OR
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 7, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Last night, the sprinklers were on at a school on Blaney Ave. This morning, walking to lunch on Stevens Creek Blvd., several buildings were watering their front lawns. There are a lot of office buildings with green lawns. The Cupertino Fire Station, on Stevens Creek, perfect lawn. Sunnyvale City Hall also has a beautiful green lawns. I drive by daily on the way to work. Are these people just stupid or plain arrogant?

Posted by Our future.
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Of course we are going to keep building. We need more housing to make room for all the people that want to live here, and to ensure that the cost to live here is affordable by everyone. There is no better way to drive down the cost of housing than to make Mountain View more dense. We will have plenty of water once we educate, or force people out of their suburbanite "I need grass and trees" life styles! Think about retiring away from job centers, like mountain view. The majority of voting people in Mountain View are young people living in apartments, and more so all the time. We resign ourselves to the fact we will never own land and likely never own a condo, but it is our time and our town now. The future is ours.

Posted by Lunch Box
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 7, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Is this supposed enforcement going to be done by the same unbudgeted phantom threat that the BAAQM use, with the claim they'll fine you if they catch you. Unenforceable bluff!

Posted by Purple water
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Green lawns does not mean wasted drinking water. The city uses recycled or "purple water" for much of it irrigation. Perhaps we can push to get pipes in so all properties have access to purple water. Most purple water simply gets passed on to the Bay because their is no distribution system to get it to where it can be used.

Posted by recycled lunch bag
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 7, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Lunch box,
You can bet this will be enforced, (like all municipal rules) on those without political capability to fight back, while those huge offenders with ability to fight back (like companies) will get the blind eye.

Posted by Carter
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2015 at 3:32 pm

This is a great time to return the Mountain View and Moffet Field golf courses back to the migrating birds.

Posted by Dog Walker
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Walking my dog last night at Sylvan Park. Sprinklers were on with water running down the sidewalks and into the street gutters. Many areas of this park are so heavily watered that the ground becomes saturated. I visit this park regularly and the sprinklers seem to be on every night. Seems the city is saying do as I say, not as I do.

Posted by letsgetreal
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 4:56 pm

I have to agree with an earlier post, stop building, at least for now, when water is so scarce.

Posted by Golden Spigot
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Apr 7, 2015 at 5:36 pm

"We don't want to be a joke agency"

Too late.

Posted by Cordelia
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2015 at 7:19 pm

If we stop building, who is going to pay the local taxes? On my block, the 4 bedroom houses all pay about $1,100 in yearly property taxes. The new condo owners pay ~$9,000 in yearly property taxes. And every year the disparity gets worse. Prop 13 screwed over young people and now Prop 13 is screwing over the water authorities. Did you know Prop 13 keeps us from raising prices on our water? How are we going to enforce conservation if we can't raise prices on our water during this historic drought?

Posted by Greg
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 7:59 pm

Stop building to save water? It sounds nice, but it doesn't work.

The number one use of water in the city is not taking showers or boiling pasta. The number one use is watering our lawns and landscaping. Blocking development wouldn't help reduce that at all.

The problem is in the mirror this time. It's not some evil development company. The problem is us.

Posted by Purple water
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Apr 8, 2015 at 12:14 am

Both the Mountain View and Moffet Field golf courses use purple water for the majority of their irrigation water. They are both a gross wastes of space that would be better used as playing fields for team sports that we are so short in, but they are not a waste of drinking water, but they are some of the most profitable parks for the city revenue.

OR and Dog walker, Do you think we should do without any grass in public spaces in the city? We have so few parks, used by so many people. Should all public space be brown, and tree less? Do you like the Arizona look for Mountain View? Would life be better if we get rid of the parks we have and go parkless?

While you are right Prop 13 is screwing us, but it is not old folks screwing young folks. That is a smoke screen trying to make one age group turn on another, away from who is really screwing us.

Owner occupied housing sells on an average of every seven years so most gets frequent prop 13 corrections. Corporate owned housing and business property sells on an average of once every 37 years. The net effect of what Prop 13 did, was shift the tax burden away from corporations. Prop 13 was meant to allow people not to be priced out of their property by growth. Each person signs up for what they are going to pay in taxes when they buy their house.

Prop 13 was sold to us (by huge corporate money) because it protects people as they age (which it does). prop 13 needs to be revised to not protect corporations, and suddenly we will have huge tax revenues. Allow more and more corporate building, both business and housing, continues to dig us in deeper and deeper. Allowing corporations to build prop 13 protected rental housing, kicks the can further down the road, but will make prop 13 revenue issues worse and worse as time goes on, not better.

There is nothing that limits water pricing, except City Council's guts.
Prop 13 has no effect on what is charged for water. We can and will raise prices, until existing residents with what "Our Future" calls suburbanite "I need grass and trees" life styles in the area are eliminated, or the demand for cheaper recycled purple water allows us to build a new water infrastructure and use the old one to distribute purple water.

I do not understand the logic of not building while their is a drought.
We have to build and live, within the water available to us in the driest conditions.

Sure more people splitting the same water resource means a smaller ration of water for each of us. I understand that people have made sacrifices for years to buy a house here, but how can we say no, to sharing our city with people that want to come here, just because they can not afford to buy a house here? Why should we cap our population when we can accommodate so many more people by simply moving ahead and forcing the adaption away from socially unrealistic, socially outdated, socially unsupported concepts of property and water rights?

Posted by Cordelia
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 8, 2015 at 12:42 am

Not so fast, Prop 13 was the forerunner of Prop 218 which is already being used to stop the water authorities from raising the prices on water. Read about it here:

Web Link

As for whether older people are screwing over younger people, it would be more honest to say that older voters agreed to let corporations receive tax shelters for a tax shelter of their very own. Let's not pretend that older voters didn't realize who would pay the price for letting the fox into the hen house.

Prop 13 robs us of the ability to manage and govern sensibly. We should abolish Prop 13 and start over. Last year, Gov Brown said he needed a "war chest" to do away with Prop 13. Prop 13 passed while Gov Brown was in office in the '70s, so it says a lot that he now publicly regrets it.

Posted by Joel Lachter
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 8, 2015 at 6:06 am

To be fair to Gov Brown, he campaigned hard against Prop. 13.

Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Apr 8, 2015 at 8:49 am

The governor's wrong on his priorities (as he is with high speed rail). He makes cuts in residential water (which makes us mindful, that's good thing), but ignores agriculture.

Agriculture is less than 2% of our state economy, but uses over 80% of our state's water (80% is the safe estimate, since we don't fully know what farming uses, since we don't measure agricultural water usage).

Take almonds for example, a quote from Mother Jones:
"California's almonds suck as much water annually as Los Angeles uses in three years. China and Hong Kong together are the top buyers of US almonds."
Web Link

Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 8, 2015 at 9:38 am

True is a registered user.

"We don't have any enforcement mechanism," Estremera said. "Even if we had an enforcement mechanism, we don't have any cops."

From which one can assume that they'd like to have an enforcement capacity. Great. What is that going to add to the operating costs, that will get rolled into our bills, forcing us to pay for the privilege of having a bunch of TSA reject mall-cops driving around the county poking their fingers into our lawns to see if we're watering too much? And what happens when we get, and we will, a few good years of rainfall? Will they eliminate those positions? Likely not.

Posted by Cordelia
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 8, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Christopher, you're right that cutting back on agricultural use of water should be a higher priority. But it's misleading to say that our governor is ignoring agriculture. Gov Brown can't just do away with old water rights that go back many generations. Water rights have strong legally binding contracts.

Take for example the Hetch Hetchy. Since San Francisco is near the Hetch Hetchy water reservoir and is politically powerful, you would think SF has first dibs to the water in the Hetch Hetchy. But you would be wrong. Modesto county (land of almonds) takes what they need first and then San Francisco goes next as dictated by legal contracts. That's not something Governor Brown can easily undo. Any change has to go through the legal system and that will take years, plus it would probably be unsuccessful.

Since water rights have been iron-clad to date, our best hope of enforcing conservation is to raise prices on water. This also has the benefit of affecting the largest water users proportionally. But, that pits legal teams in a fight against Prop 13 which is included in our state constitution.

In any case, if the drought persists another two years, we're going to see some real panicking, with or without conservation.

Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Apr 8, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Our state could require that all food sold in California have its water "footprint" clearly presented the way Whole Foods presents ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) scores.

This could be done quickly without addressing water rights (which should be tackled as a long term solution), and empower consumers to make make decisions that will help preserve our water and planet. The wide range in water footprint of our foods is shocking, and given that water is not metered for farmers, it's not internalized into consumer pricing.

Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 8, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Interesting article on NPR, from January 2010: "Will The Next War Be Fought Over Water?"

You can also listen to the 6 minute audio discussion with journalist Steven Solomon who has written a book on the subject.

Web Link

snipped from the last paragraph of article...

"The lesson of history is that in the tumultuous adjustment that surely lies ahead, those societies that find the most innovative responses to the crisis are most likely to come out as winners, while the others will fall behind. Civilization will be shaped as well by water's inextricable, deep interdependencies with energy, food, and climate change. More broadly, the freshwater crisis is an early proxy of the twenty-first century's ultimate challenge of learning how to manage our crowded planet's resources in both an economically viable and an environmentally sustainable manner. By grasping the lessons of water's pivotal role on our destiny, we will be better prepared to cope with the crisis about to engulf us all."

Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 9, 2015 at 3:40 pm

@Purple water

"Do you think we should do without any grass in public spaces in the city? "


Posted by Thank God for Prop 13
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 9, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Other wise your grandparent would have to pay 9k for their 100 yr old house. Now would that be fair? They payed 2% when they brought their house, the same as people do today. What a concept and a totally fair one. Granted it may not seem fair in the upper class neighbor hoods, but it you want to live in los altos one would be expected to have a big bank roll.

Posted by careful
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 9, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Q: "Do you think we should do without any grass in public spaces in the city? "

Steve: "Yes."

Careful Steve. Mountain View would LOVE to get rid of the grass. The city recently won an award for having the worst parks in California. Can you imagine if we just let this go native?

Posted by letsgetreal
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 9, 2015 at 8:01 pm

@ Purple Water - Your response to me is not correct ~ in my opinion. Your response to me does not make ONE BIT of sense... again, in my opinion.

You have your opinion, I have mine.

Posted by Practice what you preach
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Apr 10, 2015 at 4:38 am

Do the Santa Clara Valley Water District top officials publish their monthly water usage and are they ready to enforce their proposed penalties on themselves?

Last Fall, the Center for Investigative Reporting had an interesting story on that topic: California water officials aren't following their own call for conservation

Web Link

Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2015 at 2:51 pm

@Christopher, sorry, but unless you're a vegan with a dead lawn you don't get to complain about almonds. I'd bet you that almonds are more water efficient per calorie than a hamburger

I agree that ag needs to be on the radar, too-- Gov Brown did not go NEARLY far enough. Ag needs to feel the bite in a big way, and frakking needs to just stop completely. But even the most water inefficient crop out there is more important than a stupid green lawn. I'm really appalled with a lot of my neighbors-- back in the 70's drought, people around here would have been EMBARASSED to have a green lawn.

Posted by Green
a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2015 at 4:14 pm

So, the only green that counts is money. Agriculture generates $44 Billion out of California's $2.2 Trillion economy. It won't help if we all stop using any water. The Ag needs are so huge that we must continue to subsidize them by offering up all of our water, and paying for theirs. After all, what are personal income taxes for if not to pay for the needs of the hedge funds and factory farming corporations who provide exports by air to China. It's so green to not be locally grown.

So, WHY can't China grow its own pistachios and almonds? Answer: because the government there doesn't spend billions subsidizing water for the state owned farm corporations there, let alone the smaller farmers. Let's put the Chinese small farmers out of business like we have done in the U.S. And use California income tax revenue to do it. After all, we don't need to spend anything on schools for our kids, do we?

Posted by Green
a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2015 at 4:32 pm

In other words, those turning this into some kind of moral issue dissing people having green lawns are playing right into the hands of the Machine. The Machine wants to raise taxes (property and income) and water rates for the masses to subsidize big agriculture. Disgusting. Big Ag should pay its own way. For that matter, so should little Ag, but Big Ag is the one making all the money selling our food overseas in Asia. Why should we let that happen? Worse still, why should we PAY FOR IT.

The SC Valley Water District has a big levy on property tax bills, and they plan to raise that levy drastically as a result of the current draught. B.S.

Posted by AC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 10, 2015 at 9:05 pm

The use of purple water (reclaimed) will refill the local aquifers and water table. It is actually helping the community. If not used, this water is dumped into the bay.

Posted by Outing the lawn shamers
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 11, 2015 at 7:20 am

Here's a question for the holier than though SUPER irritating lawn shamers:
A house has a green lawn. How much more or less water does that house use compared to other homes on the street?

If anyone can answer that correctly, I'll stop laughing at the single data point lawn shamers. Our landscaping uses 100% reclaimed/recycled water.
You can talk to me about your lawn, but I will then come into your home to evaluate your recycled watering system. What's that? You don't have a water recycling system in your home? SHAME!!!! You are not doing your part...blah blah blah.

Also, anyone complaining about green laws in April probably hasn't figured out that the natural grasses on the hills are also still green.
These days and wiht the clay base of our soils, a minimal amount of recycled house water will keep it green(ish) all year. A green lawn determines NOTHING these days. It's like saying you can tell how much energy a home uses by if they have a front porch light.

Posted by Water Waste
a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Avoid waste! The biggest crop is Alfalfa. Nummy. No, it's for beef cattle. Cut down on the over indulgence in beef. Save water! Sign the petition here;

Web Link

Posted by Water Waste
a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Another thought:

"Animals raised for food in the U.S. produce far more excrement than the entire U.S. human population, roughly 89,000 pounds per second, all without the benefit of waste-treatment systems."

Meat Production, Water use per pound, in CCF like your water bill

Beef: 3.2 CCF per pound (How many pounds of beef do you consume per month??
Pork: 0.8 CCF
Chicken: 0.6 CCF
Rice: 0.5 CCF
Peanuts: 0.5 CCF per pound
Soybeans: 0.3 CCF per pound
Tofu: 0.33 CCF per pound
Cabbage: 0.3 CCF per pund
Apple: 0.1 CCF per pound

If you are going to eat meat, consider Chicken or even Pork. Way less water waste than for beef.

Posted by Water waste
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Mostly the saved water goes to help big business agriculture save costs by using the huge amount of water they use as a standard practice, and allowing them to grow and grow and use more and more. The governor is also making deals like this, mostly for big agriculture. 80% of the water in the state is being used by these farmers. They could use 50% less but it would cost them to do so. It's all about the money.

Web Link

Posted by Jen
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 13, 2015 at 2:40 pm

I have the Valley Water app on my phone and I'm reporting people in my neighborhood for wasting water. Not people who have green lawns, but people who have green lawns AND send gallons of water rushing into the street because they can't be bothered to fix their irrigation systems. What the water authority does about this I don't know, but it really pains me to see irresponsibility with our precious resource and all I can hope is that there will be some enforcement.

Posted by Put up p
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 13, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Jen, what kind of water recycling system do you have in your home?

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