News

It looks like water rationing is coming for Cal Water customers

 

Heads-up residents of the Bear Gulch Water District. It looks like water rationing is in your future.

At an Earth Day celebration in Atherton on Tuesday night, Dawn Smithson, the manager for the California Water Service Company's Bear Gulch water district, said the company is working on its plan for reaching an expected mandate of a 36 percent reduction in water use over 2013 levels.

While Ms. Smithson said she does not yet know the details of the water rationing program, it will probably be based on the historic water usage of each property, she said. In order to account for properties that have already been conserving, there will be baseline amount of water usage that no one will be expected to drop below, she said.

She said she expects there will be some sort of appeals process by which customers could challenge their allocation for special circumstances.

The district, which includes Atherton, Portola Valley, most of Woodside, and parts of Menlo Park and Redwood City, has reduced its water use by 11 percent from 2013 levels, Ms. Smithson said.

The Bear Gulch district used 252.5 gallons per day per person from July through September 2014, according to state water board numbers.

In response to a question, she said the district does plan on rationing water and is working on "water budgets" and penalties for non-compliance. Ms. Smithson said the State Water Resources Control Board is scheduled to release its draft regulations on April 28 and adopt them May 5. The state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates Cal Water, is then expected to adopt the same regulations soon after.

After that, public hearings will be held on the Bear Gulch district's plan to comply with the regulations. Ms. Smithson said she expects that to take place some time before the end of May. She expects one public hearing will be held, probably somewhere near the district's offices on Alameda de las Pulgas in Menlo Park.

The district will have to work cooperatively with local governments, Ms. Smithson said, to enforce the regulations. If the district does not show it is moving toward the state-mandated goal, it can be fined up to $10,000 a day for non-compliance, she said.

"It's going to take a conscientious effort on the part of all of us," she said.

Ms. Smithson said she does not know if tiered water rates will be used as a tool to encourage conservation because the California Public Utilities Commission sets the company's rates.

Ms. Smithson said the district does plan to work with "our high volume users," including residential customers who use lots of water, on a one-on-one basis, to figure out how to cut back. "I like to call it a concierge service," she said.

Ms. Smithson said Cal Water has "always been a huge supporter of conservation," and has had conservation programs in place for years including things such as rebates on smart irrigation controllers and high efficiency sprinkler heads and kits to retrofit faucets and check for leaks, as well as a program with agencies such as schools, cities and parks that use a lot of water on landscaping to help them reduce water use.

"These efforts have been working," she said, noting that from 2007 to 2014 the district has cut back water consumption by 23 percent.

The district is responding to complaints about water use that does not comply with the restrictions already in place, including water running off from landscaping or washing down of hard surfaces. "You might also see us going door-to-door," she said, if employees notice misuse of water.

Ms. Smithson said the district is working on ways to help customers monitor their own water use. The district has information on its website and in handouts about how to read a water meter, and are experimenting with "smart meters" that could put that information online.

She said she has noted to Cal Water that bills that measure water use in gallons rather than cubic feet would be more helpful to customers.

Comments

35 people like this
Posted by Susan C
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 22, 2015 at 12:20 pm

I'd like to see how the rules apply to apartments and other multi-family buildings where there is only one water bill and use is not individually metered.


9 people like this
Posted by for starters
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 22, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Cal Water could change their website to show actual gallons used vs CCF to keep it easy for customers to understand their actual usage or install a caculator on their website.

They could also show 13 months instead of 12 so you could compare identical months (i.e. presently you can compare feb 2014-march 2015) to better get an understanding of usage


10 people like this
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 22, 2015 at 12:42 pm

There will be more conservation actions along this line, and there will be more articles describing them. What I'm anticipating is that with a continuously reduced water usage, rates will have to increase to compensate for those reduced sales. That is to say, we residential consumers will all be punished for saving water. Just wait.

A few articles are also beginning to appear to correct the major misconception of urban water consumption. This issue should be well understood: residential water use, including extravagant user communities such as Beverly Hills, and Palm Springs, still constitute only 10% of all water consumption in California. So, all those urban reduction percentages we read about, including the 36% mentioned in this article, are merely a part of the 10%.

Agriculture constitutes 80% of water usage in California. The waste in that industry is enormous. My wife and I drove through the extensive strawberry fields surrounding Watsonville last week-end. You can see that they are mostly watered by sprinkler systems that spray water into the air. How much of that water does not drop to the ground, but vaporizes in the hot sunshine? Lots. Who cares; it's cheap water! Where is it now mandatory for the California agriculture industry to convert to drip and below ground smart watering systems, such as those the Israelis have been using for over 50 years?


7 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Chris Zaharias here, longtime PA native/resident. This week I started Raindance, a subscription-based twice-monthly reclaimed water service whose goal is to help Woodside, Atherton, PV, PA and HIllsborough high-use residential and commercial water users immediately meet/exceed the 24-36% proposed reductions.

The premise is pretty simple: we fill our 2000/4000-gallon water truck at Palo Alto's Embarcadero Rd treatment plant, drive to your house and use double-wide hoses and sprayers to deep-soak your yard once every two weeks, thereby keeping it lush & green. For most yards, two soaks per month will keep your grass green and healthy, though we'll encourage you to continue [reduced] use of potable waterings in conjunction.

Look us up on Facebook if interested. The PA treatment plant puts out 5-6M gallons/day of recycled water, yet most of it is simply discharged into the bay. If a few hundred Cal Water Bear Gulch high-use customers use Raindance, we'll save agriculture-scale potable water, and you'll avoid big fines or landscape die-off!


3 people like this
Posted by gunste
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 22, 2015 at 1:05 pm

I am pleased to see this sentence in the report: ..." In order to account for properties that have already been conserving, there will be baseline amount of water usage that no one will be expected to drop below, she said. "...
Having switched to drip irrigation in 1987, we have been actively conserving for a long time now.


Like this comment
Posted by MEMBERONE
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2015 at 1:19 pm

During the hot months, pool owners (I am one) can add 1K gallons every week or two just to keep the pool up to level.

I'd like to see an incentive for pool owners who would like to remove their pool or let it run dry without the Town getting into compliance mode ad absurdum.


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 22, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Chris Zaharias, I tried to find Raindance on Facebook but could not. Please post a link or contact information.

Thanks


2 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2015 at 2:15 pm

RainDance's Facebook page is here: www.facebook.com/RainDanceLawnwatering

Email is RainDanceLawnWatering@Gmail.com

Phone: 650-935-LAWN


Like this comment
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 22, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

Way to go, Chris.

FYI- Chris is a serial entrepreneur and my office colleague in downtown PA.


Like this comment
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2015 at 6:06 pm

Water is a registered user.

MEMBERONE: Why do you need an incentive? Isn't saving water an incentive?

Susan: Why are you concerned about apt dwellers? Their water usage is generally much lower than those in single family homes.


27 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2015 at 6:57 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Water: I, too, am a concerned apartment dweller. I, also, live in an apartment building where there is only one water bill, and use is not individually metered.

Most of the units in the building in which I live have two or more people living in them; I live alone. Plus, the two bottom apartments have their own gardens, which the tenants are continually watering. In comparing notes with other tenants here, it appears we are all being charged the same amount for water use, regardless of the number of people per unit.

I am going to write to the water company, and inquire about having water use in our building individually metered. Seems only fair.


1 person likes this
Posted by penisula reader
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 22, 2015 at 7:01 pm

I have been careful about water usage for years. I have lived through a drought before and no fun but necessary.

Multi use dwellers should be just as concerned. They do not see a bill so they do not care as much possibly. Out of sight, out of mind. Any conservation by anyone is helpful.

Pools - if yo do not have cover, please invest in one as that will keep water from evaporating as much. I have buckets in showers, sinks etc and barrels to dump it in when not watering roses etc.

Why do we not have desalination out of the ocean? Pricey - yes. Environmentalist will get cranky - yes, Necessary - most likely.


Like this comment
Posted by Peninsula Reader
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 22, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Sorry before you all slam me for spelling. Whoops spelled Peninsula wrong in my official post. sorry


2 people like this
Posted by Ruth
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Apr 22, 2015 at 11:47 pm

Here at the Ranch where I have lived for over 30 years we have no lawns, and have a drip system for plants where needed and which only require water when newly planted because most plants are native and drought tolerant. Many of our residents, over 200 homes, have noted that we have always conserved and should be applauded, not penalized or required to conserve as some others in the valley. I believe we meet the baseline amount noted that one will not be expected to go under.

Population in California has grown very quickly and with our rising oceans we should invest in desalination plants, Governor Brown, instead of high spread rail. We can survive without that but not without water.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2015 at 10:15 am

Here's the list of reduction levels currently proposed by the State Board for Peninsula customers:

36%: California Water Bear Gulch - Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley & Hillsborough

24%: Palo Alto

My understanding is that these will be in effect sometime in the next few weeks, and that hefty fines will be due for those who don't meet reduction targets.

Look at your water bill (CCF = 100 cubic feet of water = 748 gallons), and calculate how many gallons you'll have to reduce usage by to meet the 36% target. For larger properties in the CA H20 Bear Gulch district, that'll be 10000-50000 gallons per month in May/June/July/Aug/Sept.

I've recently launched RainDance, a startup that proposes to truck recycled water from Palo Alto's H20 Treatment Plant to residents and businesses on a monthly subscription basis so they can immediately meet these mandated reductions. 650-935-LAWN or RainDanceLawnWatering@Gmail.com. We're hoping that capitalism and residents' desires to maintain landscape beauty and home value will be the engine for H20 use reduction!


2 people like this
Posted by MEMBERONE
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Water,
Yes I do need an incentive.

You can't have an empty pool - insurance liability issues.
You can't backfill a pool in situ - the "Town" requires all concrete be removed and the remaining hold backfilled with dirt.
The cost to do so is running upwards of $15K.

So, for the forseeable future, I will save water other ways.


3 people like this
Posted by Dick Givens
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 2:23 pm

AG uses 80% of the water and, according to 2013 figures, accounts for approx 21.4 Billion in Exports, or almost 15% of total US AG exports. It seems to me that before we limit the economically productive use of water we should first limit the non-productive use.


Like this comment
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 23, 2015 at 3:47 pm

pogo is a registered user.

For those of you who continue to repeat the big lie that California's agriculture uses 80^% of water (they do... AFTER 50% is diverted for ecological causes), you should inform yourself.

This article is fully referenced.

Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 23, 2015 at 3:48 pm

pogo is a registered user.

From the link immediately above:

"A common claim is that agriculture consumes about 80% of “developed” water supply, yet this excludes the half swiped off the top for environmental purposes. Farmers typically consume about 80% of the remainder, so only 40% of the total. Urban users get the rest. Note also that state and federal water projects, which export water from the Delta, have slashed contractual allocations more for agriculture than to urban users. See the nearby chart."


Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 24, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Pogo -
Your link is to a Wall St. Journal article that requires a subscription to read. Any suggestions where else it might be posted?


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Here is a link to the article.

Web Link

Roy


1 person likes this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2015 at 4:32 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Apologies for the bad link. Thank you to Mr. Thiele-Sardina for providing the document.

It is must reading for those who continue to repeat the false claim that agriculture consumes 80% of California water. It does not and it isn't even close.


2 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 24, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Alan is a registered user.

"That is to say, we residential consumers will all be punished for saving water. Just wait."

The reason water prices would be going up is ... there's less of it. People who conserve may end up paying more than they did other years, but they will be paying significantly less than those that don't. I'm just really tired of this "poor me" attitude in these comments. Blame the sky for not raining, for heaven's sakes. Don't deny the reality of the weather situation.


27 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2015 at 5:49 pm

pearl is a registered user.

To cut down on the number of people using our water, why don't we quit allowing illegal immigrants to move into our state; approximately 3,000,000 of them living here right now who are consuming our water. Think about it, folks. Every little bit helps.


Like this comment
Posted by Lulu
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 25, 2015 at 11:58 am

An news article within the last year listed some California cities that did not have water meters. I'm wondering if those cities and towns have installed water meters since then, and if not, why not? Those who don't have them have little motivation to conserve.


Like this comment
Posted by wmp mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 25, 2015 at 9:16 pm

Wondering what our local golf courses are doing? And did Sharon Heights Country Club get their well permit?


1 person likes this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 26, 2015 at 9:53 am

pogo is a registered user.

Another link about myths related to California's drought.

Link: Web Link

This isn't to say that we shouldn't be conserving more, limiting development, creating more reservoirs, and investing in water transport and desalination. We can do them all - most of us can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.

But it is ridiculous to believe that our problem will be resolved by trying to convert people to vegans or taking shorter showers. Our state's population has doubled since 1970 and we have done nothing to increase our water supply. Shorter showers may make you feel better but they aren't going to cut it.


Like this comment
Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Apr 27, 2015 at 1:42 am

In 1959, there was a dry summer in Yorkshire where I grew up. The water was actually turned off and we had to walk up the road to a tap in the street with water carriers to fetch water. That would be one way to get people to save water. After that Thruscross Reservoir was built - drowing a village - upstream from other reservoirs that supply Leeds. We need to think of small reservoirs - there could be many small ones in California. Maybe we should dam Hamms Gulch.


4 people like this
Posted by WNew
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Apr 27, 2015 at 1:35 pm

During the drought of the mid-1970s, the Skyline County Water District (now part of Cal Water) priced water exponentially, that is, the rate paid was proportional to the water amount already used. Thus small conserving users paid a small base rate, but large profligate users paid substantially more -- the more they used, the higher their rate for the next 100 cubic feet consumed. The concept was to preserve "lifeline" service at low cost to the small individual conserving user, and shift the cost to large (especially very large) users. The cost to be covered was the penalty imposed by San Francisco Water Department from whom water was purchased. The value of the pricing exponent could be adjusted weekly/monthly to insure that the revenues received from these large users was sufficient to cover the penalties. The small users (many below the minimum daily consumption recommended by the American Water Works Association) did not and should not bear the penalty cost. There was often a 100-fold difference in the monthly bills sent out to large users versus the small user. All users knew where they stood, what conservation was required to drop a high bill. The pricing system worked, was relatively easy to implement (with frequent meter readings and a desktop calculator for monthly bills to then 400 household services) and quickly resulted in substantial reduction in water use -- and a much smaller penalty paid to San Francisco.


6 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 27, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@Chris Zaharias

Palo Alto's clean water discharge is pumped into the aquifer not into the Bay.

Silicon Valley Clean Water (SVCW) (the agency that treats the sewage from MPK, Atherton, RWC, San Mateo, San Carlos, Belmont, etc.) discharges approximately 12 million gallons of CLEAN water into the Bay each day since it does NOT have a permit to put it back into the underground aquifer (which all of the agencies in Santa Clara Country do). Redwood City (which is near the SVCW plant in Redwood Shores) currently uses some of the recycled water to water it's parks and medians.

West Bay Sanitary District (WBSD) is looking into several Recycled Water Projects that could distribute 250,000 to 500,000 gallons per day of recycled water to our constituents.

As you are well aware the California Appeals Court ruled tiered pricing based on usage is not legal, so the agencies will be required to find another way to get homeowners to conserve water.....

Roy Thiele-Sardina
Director - West Bay Sanitation District


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 27, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"he California Appeals Court ruled tiered pricing based on usage is not legal, "
unless it is justified by increased costs to supply the higher levels of use OR if the water is provided by a private company like Cal Water.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 27, 2015 at 8:03 pm

)...if the water is provided by a
) private company like Cal Water.

Peter's comment is spot on ... and for the entrepreneurs out there, the court ruling is likely to open floodgates to large scale privatizing of water services.

Separately, all the news fanfare of lowest per capita water usage ignore total water usage: many new residents leads to water demand.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is more on the recent court decision:
"It is important to note that not all tiered water rates violate Proposition 218. Tiered water rates can be used so long as “those rates reasonably reflect the cost of service attributable to each parcel.” The court also didn’t foreclose the possibility that high volume users could be charged greater rates if such charges reflect the cost of service to those parcels. An example, the court suggested an agency could “figure out the costs of given usage levels that require [an agency] to tap more expensive supplies [of water], and then bill users in those tiers accordingly. "


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:27 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Peter

Cal Water has a SINGLE source for it's water at a SINGLE rate. The PUC has ruled via Prop 218 that they can't deviate form their pricing.

The reason PG&E can is they startup EXPENSIVE alternative power supplies when there is peak demand.

Besides. A GREAT deal of Menlo Park residents are supplied by Menlo Park City Water District which s NOT private.

Roy


Like this comment
Posted by WNew
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:46 am

Peter Carpenter noted:

"high volume users could be charged greater rates if such charges reflect the cost of service to those parcels."

If rationing leads to financial penalties that are related to over-consumption above the 36% reduction requirement, it would seem that the high users of water should bear most of the cost of paying this penalty incurred in providing them the excessive service/water quantity they desire.

It depends on what sanctions/penalties Cal Water has in mind for unresponsive over-usage, but financial incentives to reduce consumption by large users would seem an obvious consideration.


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:54 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@WNew

What penalty is incurred to provide the extra water? The water agency has a SINGLE source for their water, and does NOT pay based on volume. If they need to start-up a De-Sal plant to supply the over use.....Then they can legally charge more for that water.

As currently configured and supplied there is no cost penalty for the extra water.

Roy


Like this comment
Posted by Flooding Large Lawns
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2015 at 3:07 am

It seems to me that who should certainly be using the reclaimed water for irrigation are the non-residential institutions with large lawns... golf courses, cemeteries, city parks and the like.

The state figures shows non residential use of 25% in most communities. It's not clear where someone with a vineyard would count, residential, or business?

And, would Redwood City's sewage treatment plant need a permit to release water in tankers to be used for irrigation? Wouldn't some of it then reach the aquifer if used to flood a golf course once every two weeks?


Like this comment
Posted by Sharif
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 1, 2015 at 7:08 am

To all members of Almanac, we at Palo alto Builders has been installing, Greywater systems, throughout Woodside, Portola Valley, Palo alto, etc. for over 2 years. long before it became mandatory. Look us up for Greywater or Rain-capture options to help you save your landscape or help reduce your water consumption. We have plenty of happy customers which we're happy to share.


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

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