Portola Valley School District ponders how to cut water use

Officials say they need to reduce usage by 1.2 million gallons next year

If homeowners are panicking about how they can possibly cut their water use by 36 percent, just imagine being the two-school Portola Valley School District, where they are expected to cut 1.2 million gallons over the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Lisa Gonzales, the district's superintendent, recently sent parents a note detailing changes the district will have to make to cut its water use by the amount that it, and everyone else in the Bear Gulch District of the California Water Service Company (Cal Water), must do.

Superintendent Gonzales said the district is working with Cal Water to monitor progress. "We have already instituted conservation measures and will expand those efforts in the coming weeks, then tighten the spigot ever further this summer to minimize use and maximize waste prevention," she said.

Irrigation is where the district uses the most water "and, therefore, offers the largest conservation gain by modifying our consumption," Ms. Gonzales said. Last summer, after neighbors of Corte Madera School complained about wasted water, the district made a number of changes in the irrigation of playing fields and landscaped areas at both schools, she said.

The superintendent said the district has cut the frequency of watering in half from four times per week to twice a week reduced the duration and now waters at night instead of during the day.

The school district also plans to let many of its grassy areas go brown. "The field is the one large place that we'll keep healthy," Ms. Gonzales said. "It is used year-round, including for summer camps, and has to be maintained to ensure student safety."

The district has also repaired leaks in its entire water system, and now monitors for leaks so they can be repaired quickly. A leak in the Corte Madera irrigation system was recently found and the district turned off the irrigation until it could be fixed, officials said.

Superintendent Gonzales said the district is also exploring changes that could save even more water, including capturing runoff water to reuse to irrigate playing fields. Renovating 20-year-old restrooms with low-flow fixtures, ultra-low flow toilets, waterless urinals, and motion sensors on sinks to prevent them from being left on is also an option.

The district is also looking at drought-resistant landscaping, with help from some neighbors, including landscape designer Danna Breen, whom Ms. Gonzales thanked for "her assistance and sound guidance." The school will put in more drought-tolerant plants in the fall, when they can benefit from winter rains before they need supplemental water.

The district is getting advice from Portola Valley town officials as well.

"Like families throughout our state, we recognize that every drop of water makes a difference and all water conservation is vital as reservoir levels drop statewide," Chief Business Officer Jonathan Barth said. "PVSD will continue to cut its water usage, react quickly to any report of water leaks, and deploy water-saving technology and landscaping wherever possible during California's drought."

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Like this comment
Posted by Cazzie
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jun 9, 2015 at 4:57 pm

The schools may want to consider a move to artificial turf. The material looks fantastic, uses no water and allows more use than grass since it is not torn up by playing in the rain and mud.

3 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:05 pm

If by "fantastic" you mean "plastic looking and hideous", I wholeheartedly agree.

Like this comment
Posted by pvrez
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:22 pm

it turns out artificial turf does need watering. just look at what's going on in san carlos: Web Link. not to mention the arsenic, mercury and lead found in them. i'll stick with grass, thanks.

1 person likes this
Posted by PVresi
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm

The PV town council owes the community a mea culpa after its last minute change of heart about the priory's turf plan. The priory is likely in the same boat and was trying to take steps years ago to reduce its water consumption by installing turf. The town changed its mind on the subject at the last minute - a decision which surely seems flawed in retrospect. Somehow I doubt we will see any of the planning board or town council members who presided over the questionable decision issue an apology to the priory community.

Like this comment
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Pondering is for plodders. This can't have taken them by surprise. The district should've implemented better water use systems years ago. The West is prone to drought, and they know that.

2 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Simple solution = let the grass die. Problem solved.

Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:43 pm

Good grief what a bunch of fear mongering. Lead! Arsenic! Mercury! Evidence of such? Virtually every peer reviewed article published in reputable environmental journals validate that modern turf fields do not have higher levels of any these than are found in the natural background environment.

And that's with the recycled tire crumb in-fill that is sometimes used. To combat this exact political (not evidence based) point, installations have switched to using recycled shoe in-soles which already conform to stricter clothing product safety standards or completely organic products such as coconut husks.

So, we talk about the San Carlos field requiring watering. Yes, they use some water to keep the coconut husk in-fill hydrated. Clever to ignore that hydration requires less than one tenth of the water as a conventional grass field.

And at the same time folks have absolutely no problem flushing tons of algae producing nitrogen fixed fertilizers into the local creeks and drainages. And where does that fertilizer come from? Is it magic? No, they have to pump tons of green house inducing methane from natural gas out of the ground. The CH4 is converted to H2, Carbon Monoxide, and Carbon Dioxoide as the first steps to producing Urea and Ammonia for fertilizer production. But it helps plants grow, so it must be green and clean!

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 10, 2015 at 6:55 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.


there you go putting forth facts again. Don't you know the scientifically illiterate would rather remain that way?

Like this comment
Posted by grass consumers
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jun 10, 2015 at 9:36 am

" i'll stick with grass, thanks."

Uh, no, you won't. This is a desert in the middle of drought, whether you believe worsened by climate change or not. You have a choice: dead grass or turf.

Grass fields also produce more injuries, with uneven playing surfaces (divots, gopher holes, a much less forgiving surface than turf, etc..) Ask any ref or umpire which is easier to work upon.

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