Local efforts to shave down water use appear to be working. Across Silicon Valley last year, water usage was reduced from 2013 levels by about 26 percent.
That's the equivalent of about 40 billion gallons of water, or enough water to fill about 58,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, said Peter Drekmeier, a spokesman for a Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards coalition.
Leaders in efforts to reduce water use are the city of Menlo Park and Menlo Park-based SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, with its landscaping partner, Gachina Landscape Management, according to a March 3 announcement by the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards.
They will be recognized as the top water-cutting utility and government agency, respectively, at an awards ceremony hosted by Google on March 23. The awards are given by a coalition of organizations, including: Acterra, the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, Sustainable Silicon Valley and the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.
Menlo Park Municipal Water District
Between June and August 2015, the Menlo Park Municipal Water District, which serves a portion of the city, registered the highest cumulative water savings in the entire state of California, cutting water use 47 percent, far surpassing its mandate to cut water use 16 percent, according to Heather Abrams, the city's environmental programs manager.
The city has implemented programs such as Lawn Be Gone, Conserve-A-Scape and Waterfluence to encourage people to decrease their water use.
The Lawn Be Gone program offers residents up to $2 per square foot to convert lawns to more water-efficient landscaping. That program has yielded the conversion of about 113,000 square feet of lawn to drought-tolerant landscaping, Ms. Abrams said.
The Conserve-A-Scape program is a city-subsidized program that offers residents consultation with a professional landscape architect, a customized drought-tolerant garden design and customized plant and supply recommendations a $400 value for $50.
Waterfluence, another city-funded program, provides automated water-use auditing to the city's top 101 water users and compares it with their water budget. In all, the three initiatives cost the city $150,000, according to Ms. Abrams.
SLAC demonstrated water thriftiness by collecting rainwater around equipment and gathering clean wastewater from construction projects to be filtered and reused in its cooling operations and landscape irrigation. With Gachina Landscaping, also based in Menlo Park, SLAC replaced 20,000 square feet of lawn with drought-resistant landscaping. Overall, SLAC has saved 15 million gallons of potable water over the last two years, which amounted to about a 10 percent reduction in its overall use during that time.
"We've been consciously trying to reduce our water consumption," said Rohendra Atapattu, sustainability program manager at SLAC. He said that the measures SLAC took, such as eliminating sprinkler systems for landscaping and retrofitting facilities, helped its staff to recognize the mandate to reduce waste was in earnest.
Afterward, he said, staff members began to shift their behaviors, reporting water leaks more quickly and reducing their personal water use.