Atherton supports water restrictions, but leaves enforcement to Cal Water

Mayor asks for more incentives to save water

Following the recommendation of City Manager George Rodericks, the Atherton City Council on May 20 approved a resolution "endorsing and supporting" the California Water Service Company's (Cal Water) drought regulations, but leaving the enforcement of the water rules up to Cal Water.

"We don't want to confuse the residents about who is responsible for doing what," Mr. Rodericks told the council.

Mr. Rodericks said that if the council passed an ordinance, as Menlo Park and Woodside have done, the ordinance would then have to be revoked when the drought restrictions end. A resolution does not need to be revoked or changed if Cal Water changes its rules, he said.

Mayor Rick DeGolia said the council endorses and supports Cal Water's efforts "wholeheartedly."

He also emphasized that Atherton wants Cal Water to offer more incentives to conserve. "We believe that the most significant problem we have in reducing our water use has to do with outdoor water use," he said.

He asked for more robust incentives to encourage residents "to replace lawns with low water-use plantings," and acknowledged that Cal Water is working on incentives.

"Every one of us knows (the drought) is a really big issue for us," Mr. DeGolia said. "We just think the best way to make it work for our residents is to go to them with incentives that are going to encourage them to make the change."

The resolution unanimously passed by the council also commits the town to complying with Cal Water's restrictions in its own water use, and to reporting the town's progress toward the goal. It also offers to have town staff help Cal Water educate Atherton residents.

The resolution also offers to share public data such as permit records or complaints about violations of the drought regulations with Cal Water. One of the new regulations prohibits filling a new swimming pool, and Cal Water would need records of town permits for new pools in order to enforce that restriction.

Patrick Alexander, Cal Water's new conservation manager was at the meeting, and council members had plenty of questions for him. "It seems like your incentives are pretty puny," said council member Elizabeth Lewis. "Are you going to increase your incentives?"

Mr. Alexander said the company does plan to put more incentives into action. "We're in the process of increasing the programs that we have," he said. "We're definitely developing more and more programs."

Mr. Rodericks' staff report shows that last year Atherton used more water per customer than any other community Cal Water's Bear Gulch District serves. However, in 2013, the year used as the baseline for the mandated reductions in water use that must take place starting June 1, Woodside customers used more.

The report says that in 2013 Woodside customers used 1,380 gallons per meter per day; in Atherton, 1,356 gallons; in Portola Valley, 773 gallons; and in Menlo Park, 467 gallons.

In 2014, with non-mandatory restrictions in place, Atherton customers used 1,334 gallons per meter, per day; in Woodside, 1,249 gallons; in Portola Valley, 679 gallons; and in Menlo Park, 424 gallons.

Cal Water Bear Gulch District director Dawn Smithson said the district came up with the figures by adding up all the water used in the community, including commercial and institutional as well as residential uses, and dividing it by the number of water meters.

Note - this story has been updated to reflect Cal Water's explanation of the water use numbers used in the Atherton report.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


2 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 22, 2015 at 9:29 am

Totally useless figure on water use per resident was provided by Cal Water Service. How about figures using ONLY residential customers. Omit government, parks, cemeteries, gold courses, schools, clubs, businesses, fire department use, street use, construction use.

Just use the residential meters. How difficult can that be.

3 people like this
Posted by AuggiesMan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Yes, Atherton, we'd be happy to give you better incentives to pay for the decisions you made. C'mon everyone, let's help by providing them with incentives, because apparently just "doing the right thing at your own expense because of your own decisions" doesn't work. I mean, not like we ever had a drought before, and of course climate change isn't real, so let's buy big, plant heavy, then ask the rest of us to help out because, well, entitled.

2 people like this
Posted by Wellllll not exactly
a resident of Encinal School
on May 22, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Thanks, Auggie - you're correct - "global cooling" er, "global warming" er, "climate change" isn't real.

If it were true,how could your champion/savior Al Gore be jetsetting around the world and powering a home which uses 20X an average home in his area??

What a douche!

5 people like this
Posted by AuggiesMan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 22, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Good one, Welllll! Because of course climate change can't be real if one guy is doing what you say. I mean, how can you argue with science? You got me! Off to bash my head on wall repeatedly for not thinking of this obvious connection.

2 people like this
Posted by Incentives???
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 24, 2015 at 4:14 pm

So Atherton, one of the wealthiest communities in the world, thinks it needs incentives to do the right thing? Who does Arherton think will finance those incentives? It doesn't take long to realize that Athertonians think they have no personal responsilbity and expect everyone else to pay more so they get an incenctive. Sorry, but There is no free lunch. Taxpayers or other water district customers would have to pay more so Athertonians don't have to pay their own way. How is that fair? Wake up Atherton. Do the right thing - without expecting incentives.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 24, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Some Athertonians have already done the right things:

- replaced their lawns with zero water use artificial turf

- installed new low flow sprinkler heads

- shut down and emptied outdoor fountains.

So, deal with individuals not stereotypes.

4 people like this
Posted by AuggiesMan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 25, 2015 at 10:22 am

Peter: I'm sure there are individuals who have taken steps, and my hat's off to them for taking responsibility and trying to do something about it. But it was your mayor and a council member asking for more incentives, and given we have a representative government and your town's household water use 3x Menlo's, you're going to need to get your representatives and a whole lot of other "individuals" involved to make a dent and, IMHO, without any incentives from the rest of us.

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

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Couple brings Chinese zongzi to Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 5,934 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 9 comments | 1,740 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,475 views

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,157 views

Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush
By Stuart Soffer | 2 comments | 526 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More