Menlo Park signs off on new water restrictions

Landscape watering is limited to two days per week

To further conserve water during the statewide drought, the City Council voted 3-0 to approve new restrictions for customers of the Menlo Park Municipal Water District on Tuesday, May 5.

The water district serves approximately 14,100 customers in Menlo Park. According to city staff members, they are collaborating with other water utilities that serve the city, such as Cal Water, to make sure the rules are consistent for all residents.

The newest restrictions:

■ Limit landscape watering to two days a week. Even addresses may water on Tuesdays and Fridays; odd addresses on Mondays and Thursdays. No watering is allowed between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

■ Require pool and spa covers and prohibit newly built pools from being filled with municipal water.

■ Prohibit new construction projects from installing "single pass cooling systems" that circulate water once before draining it, such as air conditioners.

The State Water Resources Control Board is proposing that the district reduce water use by 16 percent from 2013 levels. But the district has already achieved a 27 percent reduction, according to state data.

While the number is accurate, the 27 percent reduction is based on the amount the district purchased from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said Public Works Director Jesse Quirion. The district's actual sales numbers show a 12 percent reduction from 2013 levels, he said.

Customers such as the Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club will be allowed to water more than twice a week as long as they conserve the same amount of water by cutting back in other areas.

Club representative Robin Driscoll told the council during the May 5 meeting that the club expects to have reduced water consumption by 16 percent compared with the 2013 base rate by the end of this year. The club has installed drought-resistant turf, turned off 15 percent of its irrigation and is building a recycled water plant that should go online in January 2017, he said.

The recycled water plant will provide all turf irrigation, according to Mr. Driscoll, while the rest of the water needed will come from the Menlo Park Municipal Water District.

Council member Kirsten Keith described enforcement as the "elephant in the room."

According to Mr. Quirion, the city was receiving five to six reports a day prior May 5, and he expects that number to rise with the implementation of the new restrictions.

Violations can be reported by calling (650) 330-6750, emailing, or filling out an online complaint form. Complaints will be handled by the district's staff and code enforcement officers. So far the focus is on education rather than fines.

Mayor Catherine Carlton urged the city to start making it easier for residents to use the water they already have. The city "makes it as hard as humanly possible" to use rain barrels to collect water, she said, and doesn't allow gray water systems that could use water draining from showers and washing machines to nourish the yard.

"This upsets me a lot," she said. "... There's a push and pull to this; we're pulling, but not pushing on the other end."

Mr. Quirion said those alternatives will be considered as part of creating a master water management plan, which he expected to take about two years because of priorities assigned to other projects and staff workloads.

"Two years, that's just not OK," Mayor Carlton said. "We're in a drought."

Council members Ray Mueller and Rich Cline were unable to attend Tuesday night's meeting.

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Posted by Water User
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 7, 2015 at 1:43 pm

One of the things people may not realize is that in Menlo Park we have several different water providers which procure water from several different sources. This ruling appears to only apply to customers of Menlo Park Municipal Water District. While the rules seem reasonable for all to follow, take note of where the person is before filing a complaint.

3 people like this
Posted by Missing the point
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 7, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Why do they care when I water my garden, so long as I use no more than my (now reduced) share of water? I don't water my plants more than once a week anyway, less in cooler weather like this week, and my household consumption is well below average, so I feel I am doing my part already. Maybe I don't like wandering around my garden at midnight on Tuesdays with a flashlight and a hosepipe. Why can't I do it when I have time for it on Saturday morning?

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Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 7, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Alan is a registered user.

@Missing the point - I can see what you're saying. The restriction on daytime watering makes sense, as it has more evaporation. The even/odd rule makes enforcement easier. I think they're thinking about automated system. We hand water most of our landscape once per month, but it'll be easy to forget which day of the week. I'm not sure why one of the two days can't be a weekend day. That's the problem with rules, there's exceptions where the rule makes no sense.

For all of the attention this has gotten - it seems to mean people have to cut 4% over last year. That's trivial.

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Posted by retired teacher
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 7, 2015 at 7:38 pm

When do the new restrictions go into effect? Reducing landscape watering to two days a week doesn't necessarily result in a reduction of water use. Will the total amount of water used by my household also be monitored in some way?

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Posted by OPC
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 7, 2015 at 8:48 pm

Typically, the watering restrictions are for use of sprinklers, not drip irrigation or hose use (with a shut-off nozzle). It would be good to get clarification.

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Posted by Missing the point
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 8, 2015 at 6:57 am

If this rule is to be just for automated sprinkler systems, then I would withdraw my point, although nothing in the article suggests that is the case. I hope to be able to!

WRT to evaporation, yes, it makes sense to avoid the middle of a warm day, as I already do. However, there would be less evaporative effect at 8, 9 or even 10 in the morning of a typical summer day in MP than at 7 or 8 in the evening, when temperatures are considerably higher and there is often an onshore breeze. And that time in the morning is exactly when I like to water. It is also better for the plants not to be cool and damp overnight, which may encourage fungal infections.

Again, so long as you are demonstrably conserving water, as is readily enforceable from your meter reading, they should let you use your allocation when you like.

2 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 8, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Alan is a registered user.

Does Menlo Park have its own greywater rules? I'm pretty sure California changed the law regarding laundry-to-landscape systems without a permit. I remember the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center hosted an event where the - I think it was the water district - showed how to install these systems. She may be incorrect about this, or Menlo Park may have their own rules.

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Posted by 28 year resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 8, 2015 at 8:02 pm

What a joke, if you drive down to Gilroy and over to Monterey during the middle of the day, they are still running their above ground sprinklers in mid-day and we are still growing rice in the San Joaquin valley that we are subsidizing. We should be growing rice in Louisiana!

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