Circus Club: 'Let's be a role model' for water use


With a 10-acre polo field visible from the street, it's almost inevitable that, with mandatory water restrictions in place, passersby would complain when they notice that the Menlo Circus Club in Atherton is continuing to water the field with above-ground sprinklers, even during the heat of the day.

But Christian Thon, general manager of the private club at 190 Park Lane, behind Sacred Heart Schools, said the club is working hard to incorporate water conservation measures wherever it can.

The club, which has been in Atherton since 1923, is doing that, he said, even though it has a well on the property that provides all water for outdoor irrigation, for its barns and arena, and for its spas and pools.

"We would like to believe we actually have been very proactive," said Mr. Thon. In early April, just days after Gov. Jerry Brown announced mandatory water-use restrictions, Mr. Thon called an all-staff meeting to brainstorm ways the club could cut back water use.

"I said, 'Let's try to be a role model,'" Mr. Thon said. "For us it's really not about money; it's about doing the right thing."

Staff members came up with ways to save water in each area of the club. In the kitchens, for example, workers no longer thaw food in water baths. They run the dishwasher only when full and serve water only when requested.

"We don't wash our barns any more," Mr. Thon said. "We vacuum our barns twice a day." In addition, horses can get a full-body bath only four days of the week, and when they do, it is by a hose with a shut-off nozzle. The other three days it's bucket and sponge baths only. All the washing machines are low-water use models, he said. Horses drink well water.

The club's arena has a special footing, or sand surface, from German Geo Textile that adds textiles to the sand so it requires less water to remain stable. Barn manager Jennifer Dixon said the club is also looking into incorporating an additive that would allow the use of even less water.

All the club's plumbing fixtures have low-water-use valves, and sink faucets and urinals are being replaced by models with sensors that turn them off when not being used. Toilets now have dual-flushing modes that use different amounts of water depending what needs flushing. Paper towels have replaced cloth towels to reduce water used for laundering.

Signs ask club members and employees to conserve while showering, shaving, or washing their hands, Mr. Thon said.

Turf irrigation has been cut back by about 60 percent, he said, resulting in yellow and brown areas. Mr. Thon said he got permission from the club's board of directors to "cut back as much as you can without killing the grass."

Flower beds will have drought-tolerant plants instead of annuals, and the club is considering replacing turf with other plantings. "We're re-evaluating; we're not just putting in grass and sprinklers," he said.

As for that polo field, Mr. Thon said the club is now watering the center area of the field four days a week (one of four sections is watered each day) because in August the field will be used for the club's annual charity horse show. The watering is done during the day, he said, because the sprinklers used on the field must be moved by noisy tractors hourly, which might violate the town's noise ordinance if done between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The field can't have in-ground sprinklers, Mr. Thon said, because they could injure the horses.

The club is going to try watering on a different schedule, however, if it is approved by the town, he said. The club will attempt to water in the early morning and evening by using low pressure in the pipes, shorter pipe lines and a golf cart to move them around, all of which should make the watering quieter, he said.

The club's well has been tested and shown to provide drinking-quality water, Mr. Thon said. The club has also, for the past two years, checked to see if the level of water available in the well has gone down, and it has not, he said.

To try to maintain that level of availability, Mr. Thon said, the club used its recent construction project as a chance to redirect all runoff from club buildings and landscaping and rain water into a series of dry wells that drain into the aquifer and not off-site.

"What God doesn't take and the grass doesn't drink goes right back to the aquifer," he said.

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18 people like this
Posted by Please Save Water
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 29, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Thanks to Barbara Wood for getting the information out.

1 person likes this
Posted by water saver
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 29, 2015 at 1:18 pm

NO ONE SHOULD HAVE GREEN LAWNS!!! what if the circus club cut the watering of lawns by 100% think that would be a role model. the lawns will grow back when we have enough water to irrigate again. what a waste of water--for what purpose--to have the color green. why not use astro turf? that would be a role model. water, mow, water, mow. Yes, that certainly sets a great example for all in Atherton to emulate.

10 people like this
Posted by Proofreader
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 29, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Thank you Barbara Woods for an excellent, well-written article about the Circus Club's water use and conservation plan. The information and the tone of it were done just right. Never mind the nonsense comments by obsessive class-enviers like "water saver" who would only be happy in a dictatorship that spreads suffering evenly. Your article does a great service to the residents of our Almanac towns and to the Circus Club which is really one of us. Those unable to control their envy and disapproval can go dig their own well.

2 people like this
Posted by water saver
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 29, 2015 at 2:23 pm

another bunch of nonsense by proof reader. doesnt even make any sense. but that is the atherton way--keep watering ==because it certainly won't affect you when we ALL run out of water. stay locked up in your fantasy world.

6 people like this
Posted by Equal Time
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 29, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Why stop with the Circus Club? What about an expose on the Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club and the Menlo Country Club? Both have extensive greens because of their golf courses. What are they doing? How much water do they use and where does it come from? Does the Circus Club use more or less?

7 people like this
Posted by Just hold on…
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 29, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Nice article, and PR opportunity by the Circus Club, but I'm still not following the logic.

Atherton divides the 24-hour day into two noise zones: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. If the Circus Club is watering at 11 a.m., and believes its watering would be too noisy for the 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. zone, why not just water at 9 p.m. or 8 p.m.?

Reading between the lines, it's probably because they don't have staff members working those hours who operate the tractors.

Hopefully we can go beyond the puffery and actually get them to start watering at night like they're supposed to. It really has nothing to do with the noise ordinance.

12 people like this
Posted by Marie Antoinette
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 29, 2015 at 4:32 pm

"Never mind the nonsense comments by obsessive class-enviers like "water saver" who would only be happy in a dictatorship that spreads suffering evenly."

Clearly the less affluent should suffer more than the financially privileged. And it's also safe to assume that the less affluent are stupid, greedy, and envious because if they were better human beings, they too would be rich!

P.S. I sincerely hope that all the country clubs have fences high enough to keep out the peasants. Wouldn't want the riffraff storming the palace!

8 people like this
Posted by Lip Service?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 1, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Appears the talk about being a community role model was just lip service. Menlo Circus Club is still watering lawns midday today. Why all the cool talk about being a community role model and then continue with bad water behavior? I'm appalled. Truly bad public relations.

And please stop the envy rhetoric which might amuse a few but distracts from the real issue.

Like this comment
Posted by Moved the pipes
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 1, 2015 at 9:44 pm

The pipes take 45 mins to set. They run for 3 hours then must be reset. Would you wake up at 2 am go to work. Spend 45 minutes there just to go back home and do it again 3 hours later? Not to mention it is difficult to do in the dark.

AstroTurf? Clearly you have no experience with horses. And brown grass is also slick and dangerous for the animals.

As far as city water they have taken all measures necessary to do their part in conservation.

Don't just look through the fence and cast judgement. They are good people who work there and do their best to make a small environmental impact. They were the only club to win a Recology award for their recycling and compost percentages.

7 people like this
Posted by Just hold on…
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 1, 2015 at 10:32 pm

Please stop making illogical excuses. The Circus Club could accomplish watering at reasonable light/heat times, and without any risk of running askance of Atherton's noise ordinance, by simply moving the watering to the early evening, and continuing until 10. The issue, obviously, is they don't want to pay staff to work those hours.

4 people like this
Posted by water saver
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 2, 2015 at 6:11 pm

Marie-- your theory reminds me of the stories of the "bad guys" in the cowboy era and advancing the wild west. when a bad guy would come across a water storage tank so that others who were caught in the desert without water would have something to drink, they would poke holes in these tanks so that there was no water. however, after doing this, they realized, that they too, had no water to drink. i don't see the class warfare issue here as Marie suggests. water is water and has no class. if there is no water to drink, there is no water to drink. this drought pertains to you and me. if there is no water to drink, there is no water to drink. Menlo Circus club and golf courses and other vast lush green lawns should be very low on anyone's totem pole--it is a real problem and we are real people who will not exist without water to drink.

2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 2, 2015 at 7:38 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

water saver:

who is more likely to have an acre of land to irrigate, the wealthy or your average Joe? Personally, I find it offensive to be lectured on water use or waste by someone that is irrigating an acre of landscaping compared to my postage stamp yard. Who's wasting water?

4 people like this
Posted by More investigation needed
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 7, 2015 at 9:26 am

The Circus Club lawns were "soaking wet" midday last weekend. When will the Circus Club be a good community citizen and restrict their water use?

Barbara Wood: Please followup with the Circus Club and investigate what is really going on -- why can't the Circus Club follow best water practices (even if it is well water)? Also talk to the Town of Atherton about the Circus Club claim that they can't water at night because of the noise.

The Circus Club apparently just wants this issue to be forgotten -- please pursue this water wasting.

Everyone needs to do their part to save water.

2 people like this
Posted by Still wasting water!
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 10:49 am

Still watering lawns yesterday during the hottest hours...

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

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