Neighbors protest water waste at Corte Madera School


As local residents change their habits, and their landscaping, to deal with the reality of a state-wide drought, tempers can sometimes flare if water appears to be being wasted.

That's what happened in Portola Valley this summer, when residents who live near Corte Madera School noticed the same thing they say they've noticed in years past -- water running down Alpine Road from the school's playing fields.

Lisa Gonzales, superintendent of the Portola Valley School District, said the district has tried everything to figure out why the water continues to run.

Ms. Gonzales, who was hired by the district in July 2013, said the district has taken some actions: It has plugged at least one leak in the Corte Madera irrigation system, changed the frequency of mowing so the grass can absorb more moisture, reduced the watering by a third, started watering for shorter periods of time, and tried to figure out which storm drains and culverts aren't working as they should.

In addition, she said, the district has talked to the town of Portola Valley, to four different contractors and to neighbors about the problems.

But neighbors say that as late as Aug. 17, water was still running off the school grounds and sprinklers were running in the heat of the day, instead of in early morning as water officials recommend.

"On Saturday (Aug. 16) water was pouring at noon and 6 p.m.," said neighbor Angela Hey, who posted video and photos.

Another neighbor said on the same day, eight sprinklers were watering the field as the outside temperature reached 80 degrees, with "water pouring down Alpine Road ... this is not a leak."

Superintendent Gonzales said the district still has a few things left to try, including digging up blacktop and digging under buildings to try to find leaks or broken pipes.

Dawn Smithson, local manager at the California Water Company, said the company has been working with the school district to help resolve the problem.

The second item on the company's list of "unauthorized uses" is "use of water that results in flooding or run-off in gutters or streets." However, Ms. Smithson said, for the time being, Cal Water does not have any penalties for those who waste water.

"At this time, Cal Water is in a 'voluntary conservation' mode," she said. "We are doing our best to reach the required 20 percent conservation through educating our customers; we are enforcing through education. So far this seems to be effective."


Like this comment
Posted by PV Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Aug 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm

I am still so upset that the town has not pushed field turf at all the schools/fields in town. All the advocates against field turf for Woodside Priory set this waste in motion. So sad that there are so many short sighted people in PV.

Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 23, 2014 at 8:48 am

You'd have to be pretty short sighted not to see how ugly plastic fields look.

Like this comment
Posted by Craig Hughes
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Aug 23, 2014 at 9:03 am

Here's a photo of the city in China where the plastic factory is, that uses enormous quantities of their local water to product the plastic that's then shipped here to be your suggested field surface:

Web Link

Is it right to live in a draught area, then push your water use and pollution off onto much poorer and already more polluted areas in the rest of the world, so that your kids can play a few extra games of soccer a year?

Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 23, 2014 at 11:44 am

> advocates against field turf for Woodside Priory set this waste in motion.

Funny that. I'm sure that it's just coincidence, but my observation is that a quite significant number of those opposed to Priory's turf conversion just happen to be seen as off leash dog walker / ball-fetch players who would be deprived of a personal playground if turf were installed.

Like this comment
Posted by PV Conservation Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Aug 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Turf is one of the most environmental things we could do for our 'playing fields'. Yes, it is made of synthetic fibre, just like a lot of your carpets, clothing, and furniture. Your scaremongering about factories in China is an attempt to divert the conversation. It is very short sited and borders intellectually bullying.
The truth is, if you are going to use grass for a playing field, it is going to take a lot of water and it is going to require fertilizer and pesticides.
TURF SAVES water and it eliminates the need for PESTICIDES and FERTILIZER. I am amazed the PVSD hasn't already switched given how expensive water has become.
Too bad about the run off, since with all that run off, you can bet the pesticides and fertilizer ends up in our creeks.

Like this comment
Posted by PV Reisident
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Aug 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Like this comment
Posted by Hankey
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Check out the H20 bills for local golf courses.

Like this comment
Posted by old timer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Aug 26, 2014 at 12:27 pm

What happened to kids just playing on dirt? Quit watering the fields, mow them short and let them be. . .

Like this comment
Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Aug 26, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I agree with you Old Timer. I grew up in Arizona, and during all those years, water conservation wasn't mandated, but for my family, it was just common sense. I still played soccer, our schools still had football teams, and we played on dirt fields with these naturally drought resistant patches of something like grass. It may not have been as soft or a pretty green field to look at, but come on, it's the desert!

I really enjoy golf too, but I still can't believe all the ridiculous golf courses there. Skiing....that makes sense to me. If there's enough snow, I can enjoy it. If not, I can't (unless I go somewhere where there is enough).

Now there's the arguments about who uses the most water. Cattle ranchers, farmers, etc. I think if we each do what we can and call on the businesses/industries to do the same, we may be able to fix some of this. I also think education is helpful, but unfortunately, there are those people who actually tell themselves they are too important to be inconvenienced with this, or their lawn should be an exception because their kids really need it, or who feel the problem is for everyone else to fix. I wish I had some idea of what to say to those people to get them to wake up and join us here in the real world, because the bottom line is we are all in this together like it or not.

Like this comment
Posted by PV Conservation Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Aug 27, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I disagree strongly with our Council Member and his posting of the picture of a river in China.
How do we know that those factories are not making cell phones or computers… I bet he was using one to post his message.
I have traveled to China over the past 20 years and I can tell you that they have been dumping sewage and garbage in their rivers forever.
The Council Member's post is diverting the conversation about conservation and the environment here in PV to an emotional picture about the terrible way the Chinese are treating their environment.
The fact is that watered lawns take a lot of WATER, FERTILIZER, PESTICIDES and MOWING. There are alternatives that would be better for our environment. As a proponent of conservation and the environment, I am surprised you can't see that.

Like this comment
Posted by Craig Hughes
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Aug 27, 2014 at 2:05 pm

I know not everyone read through the Environmental Impact Statement, especially not the appendices which discuss the components of the proposed field, what they were in turn made of, and where they were made. Nor perhaps do thy know enough about industrial chemical production to know how much water is used in their manufacture. But really, it's quite clear that there's a lot, lot more water used in the creation, processing, and transportation of the plastics than would ever be used during its lifetime in watering a living turf field, much of which, from the materials data sheet is indeed manufactured in Chongqing, which is pictured in my link. Those buildings across the river aren't factories, they're office buildings. I don't know enough about the geography of Chongqing to know whether they're up- or down-river from the site that photo was taken, but I do know that if I was citing a styrene factory in China, I would certainly do it on the river. Whether I used river water as a source chemical, or just for cooling, you need so much water that locating far from the river would be economically not such a great idea.

Anyway, I would dispute that what I'm trying to do is intellectual bullying, or indeed scaremongering. I'm just trying to draw some attention to what you're asking for when you want to install artificial grass fields. You may not be causing a huge amount of pollution, nor consuming large amounts of scarce resources locally, but you really ought to consider the externalities. If we should have learned anything from studying climate change, we should have learned to at least consider about these externalities when dealing with any issues of sustainability.

That said, the article here, the photos, and observation by anyone who's been past CMS recently would clearly indicate that some simple fixes like adjusting timers and re-aiming sprinkler heads would probably go a long way to solving the problem here, regardless of what one thinks about artificial turf fields.

Like this comment
Posted by PV Conservation Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Aug 29, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Actually it is really NOT clear that the creation, processing and transportation of the turf would use more water. Where does this fact come from? It might be your opinion, but it is not a fact.

That said, I do agree that some simple fixes will solve the Corte Madera run off problem. It still won't solve the fact that it is using a ton of water, fertilizer and pesticides.... and it needs to be mowed often.

Conservation is about considering the whole picture.

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

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 17 comments | 4,926 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 1,195 views

Couples: When Wrong Admit It; When Right; Shut Up
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 709 views

One-on-one time
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 545 views