Tonight: Tap well water to irrigate golf course?

Menlo Park to hold community meeting

The Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club would like to keep its greens well-watered; Menlo Park would like to help, it seems. The city has called a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, to discuss the club's proposal to build a groundwater irrigation well in Nealon Park.

According to city staff, using the well's non-potable water to irrigate the golf course, and schools and parks next to the pipeline, could save about 60 million gallons of potable water a year.

The park, located at 800 Middle Ave., has its share of neighbors who are less than thrilled with the plan. In a letter to city officials, Elizabeth Houck challenged the city's assertion that the well could save water, saying only the source of irrigation would change, not the amount. Tapping a public aquifer to service a private club runs the risk of depleting local drought reserves for the benefit of only a few, she wrote.

JoAnne Wilkes, who lives next to the park, questioned whether the plan even conforms to regulations governing the use of open space districts such as Nealon Park.

Former mayor and environmental advocate Steve Schmidt added his comments to the chorus of concern.

"The fundamental question lies in the wisdom of drilling for ground water anywhere and at any time and especially if the driving force behind this idea is to irrigate a golf course," he said. "I presume there would be extensive testing of the ground water affected by this well and the potential impacts on the aquifer underlying Menlo Park."

The Aug. 24 meeting will be held at the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center at 700 Alma St. in the Civic Center.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Donna
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I don't know what they're categorizing this well water as non-potable. Most well water, if consumed soon after extraction from the ground, and hasn't sat in pipes for a long time, is drinkable (unless there's chem contamination from nearby contributors).

Like this comment
Posted by PALMER
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm

The richest of our community would start thinking ahead.
Let it dry up and build homes for Vets.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm

PALMER = R. Gordon

Like this comment
Posted by Jefferson
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Aug 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm

At first it seems like a 'green idea',

However this private use of public land. It's a private club for the extremely wealthy.

Maybe Menlo Park could get an occasional martini in return.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 23, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club - from their secretive website -
"Coupled with its ELITE MEMBERSHIP the club has maintained traditions for service and facility excellence that have enabled Sharon Heights to achieve their position as a Platinum Club of America, one of the top 100 club communities in the United States!"

We already recently let the ELITE cut down numerous trees for their country club and gold course. Now the clowns in city hall want to let them water the place with our aquifer, sending the huge quantities of chemical fertilizer the course uses back into that same aquifer.

I say let the ELITE water their golf course with champagne. Let's say with the 1999 Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill. It's only a meager $198 a bottle at K&L.

Their year ending 3/2010 income was $10.8 million and depreciated assets were listed at $27 million (actual fair market value of the facilities and land is way above that figure). Look up their finances with their EIN 941528424. For some strange reason country clubs qualify as charitable organizations.

Yep they need our water like a hole in the head.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Some interesting facts from the Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club's 2010 IRS 990 Web Link.
The general manager Richard Sussman has a $385,000 compensation package (Editor this is all public info and pertinent to the City's dealings with the country club). Sussman is also a managing member of his spouse's flower business Jodee's Floral Art & Event Design, LLC (Web Link) which did $176,000 of business with the country club for the year ending 3/31/2011. Is Mr. Sussman the individual the city is dealing with?

By the way the $10.8 million income includes over $7 million in member dues and assessments.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 24, 2011 at 5:19 am

Why not sell them the water at a very high price?

Like this comment
Posted by water logged
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 24, 2011 at 9:20 am

The city for years has debated building additional reserve wells - for the city.

Why should this country club take priority?

Why isn't this a limited license to water rights?

Does the city have to pay to maintain it.

The city should charge $1,000,000 per year.

Like this comment
Posted by My2Bits
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Public water should not be available for use by private interests, and especially never for recreational use such as a very private golf course.

Sharon Heights Club should build the true cost of water into their budget. It is totally unacceptable to consider allowing use of the water by this very private and exclusive club. Let them build their own rain collection system and insist that they adopt 'green' practices overall before use of ANY public resources is discussed.

It is CRAZY that this proposal is even being considered. CRAZY!

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 24, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There is nothing crazy about the City selling water to a private entity at the highest price that can be negotiated and doing so on a year to year basis. This customer has zero alternatives which places the City in a very strong negotiating position.

Like this comment
Posted by resident of MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Aug 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm

A ridiculous idea. MP should NOT be subsidizing a private entity and should not buy into the idea that the golf course provides tax income for the city. It will do that regardless of some brown spots...

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm

I believe it was Stockton that years ago thought selling water to outside interests was a good idea...and today? Big problem.
Projects like this often end up costing much more down the road. So the city makes money (enough in 10 years?)now.
How about the golf club ask the Hotel across the street where they get all their water? (Stanford?)
In all, I'm not certain that considering decisions like changing nature's way for commercial, corporate reasons, is the way to go....many corporations run into trouble because of circumstances changing; a town that serves many should not be responsible for keeping that entity going.

Like this comment
Posted by nearby neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm

The Bear Gulch Reservoir is very close to the golf course. Is there a source of non-potable
water closer than Nealon Park? I support the concept of selling non-potable water as a
revenue generating opportunity for either Menlo Park or another water company. Is it
feasible for Sharon Heights Country Club to build their own non-potable water reservoir
on their existing land?

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Thank you for placing this story on the home page again.

Like this comment
Posted by John Muir
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm

This has to be one of the nuttiest proposals to come down the pike, surpassing even the vaunted High Speed Rail in terms of its potential LOCAL impact on all and sundry. How much water is this? If you had a tank with the footprint of the Stanford football field, it would have to be roughly as high as it is wide, that is about 55 yards high, to hold the water. That's impressive, and that's what they are seeking to remove from underground. That water holds a lot of stuff up on the surface of the ground, in addition to sustaining the trees.

Here are some things to think about:

Central Menlo is full of mature trees. Many have lived long enough to put their roots into the water below them, and have thrived. Lowering the water table will stress them quickly, and they may never recover. In this time of Sudden Oak Death and the like, their ability to respond to the challenges they face will be diminished.

Subsidence, the dreaded "S" word. Removal of this volume of water may well affect properties throughout the city. Who will be first? Probably those with basements, but it won't stop there. How about CalTrain? Unpredictable track subsidence will cost a lot of money, and substantially increase the likelihood of derailments. Just what we need.

Earthquakes; interference with natural patterns of groundwater has produced earthquakes in some areas of Colorado. That could never happen here!

Salt water intrusion? That's where saltwater from the Bay comes back in under the land where fresh water has been removed, with unpredictable consequences. Can hydrology models predict this? Experts will say yes, no doubt.

Aquifer recharge. Where does the water come from that they want to take? Will it come back next year? Will it come back in a dry year? Who decides how much water can be taken during any given year? Your elected representatives? Some guy in a Country Club bar? Inquiring minds want to know.

The water will be "free" to the users; will they seek to resell it? After all, it's a sweet deal for them. A brand new water concession, in a place where water isn't easy to come by. Any problems will not be in their neighborhood. And the city? They're just along for the ride.

Like this comment
Posted by Sandy Brundage, Almanac Staff Writer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 25, 2011 at 9:31 am

The story was not taken down from the site. We sometimes have to place notices of upcoming events temporarily in Around Town to have the story go out in Express, and later move it back to the front page.


Like this comment
Posted by Roxie Rorapaugh
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Aug 25, 2011 at 9:54 am

The golf course water scheme is a disgusting idea. I agree with all the above statements made against it. Aquifers are by their nature very fragile, and should not be tapped for such an absurd purpose.

That city staff time is being wasted on such a blatant attempt of a few wealthy to take from the public weal is just wrong. The City Council should put an end to this and start an investigation of how city management is using public resources to pursue the aims of small, private, wealthy groups.

Like this comment
Posted by Ralphie
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 25, 2011 at 10:15 am

While not wishing to accuse anyone of bad faith, the slides from last night's presentation of this project pretty much make it appear that city staff is wholeheartedly on board, and that the "proposal" nature of the investigation is merely a cover for a full recommendation to the City Council to proceed in November.

A genuine presentation of this as a speculative project, which it most assuredly is at this stage, would have provided a lot of detailed information regarding the aquifer and the financial aspects. From the question period, it's not at all clear whether this information is in hand, hidden, or not collected at all.

It was very clear that the substantive issues in this matter are troublesome, and it's difficult to know what laws really apply. None of this was presented, while those in the audience made several substantial suggestions that would serve the city's purposes without the intrusion this massively disruptive undertaking will produce.

Roxie's right; city resources should be focused on city matters, which this is not.

Like this comment
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm

If Menlo Park sells the water to Sharon Heights on an annual basis it sounds like a win for the city. Plus Sharon Heights pays for the installation. The city should have control over the well and be able to turn off the tap in a drought.

Much of the Willows neighborhood draws water directly from the aquifer without water meters! I suggest we direct our concern to that existing unregulated water district.

Like this comment
Posted by Davis
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Please explain how many residences are drawing water from the aquifer in MP without water meters. Are these private wells? This should be public information.

Like this comment
Posted by thomas
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 31, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I want to see an environmental impact report. I want to see the impact on the ground water level, the impact on trees and plants: do we need to use more water to water our plants after the aquifer is compromised?
Is there an impact on the stability of the soil? will our houses get cracks because the soil is settling down?
And even if there were to be zero impact on the environment (which I doubt) still raises the question how much sense it makes to use public water and give it away for free to an exclusive golf club. Menlo Park residents should use that water.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 1, 2011 at 7:16 am

If they're going to sink a well it makes more sense to use that water to irrigate Menlo Park parks than it does to give it away to a Country Club that should be able to afford to sink their own well and pay for their water.

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

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Squid ink paella & patatas bravas: Barcelona natives bring Spanish tapas to Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 3,562 views

Lights Out! Foods to Snuggle With in the Dark
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,977 views

What to do with all those cardboard boxes
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 1,961 views

Premarital and Couples: The "Right" Way to Eat an Artichoke
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,410 views

What did you learn last week?
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 820 views


Race Results Are In

Thank you for joining us at the 35th annual Moonlight Run & Walk! All proceeds benefit the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday fund, supporting local nonprofits serving children and families.

Click for Race Results