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Guest opinion: Water woes - Let's focus on the rest of the iceberg

Original post made on Apr 17, 2015

The Almanac's April 7 editorial, "Increase the pressure on water wasters," only touches the tip of the iceberg.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 16, 2015, 3:04 PM

Comments (15)

Posted by gunste
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 17, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Water use for any account can be downloaded from CalWater's website. It provides monthly use for the past 12 months in terms of hundred Cubic Feet.

To convert to gallons multiply by 748.

Water wastage by individuals occurs most frequently while brushing teeth, washing dishes, by leaving the tap running at full stream and doing laundry with extra rinse etc. . Yet all this is a drop in the bucket compared to agriculture that fails to use drip irrigation, instead of sprinklers and flooding where evaporation is huge. (Israel has the technology down pat, because of need).

The requirement to have to ask for water in restaurants is a poorly disguised project. People who shower at their gym don't save water. Drastic restrictions on homeowners is poorly devised. - Just prohibit lawns and sprinkles in areas that are desert … Los Angeles, Palm Springs etc.

Those of us who put in drippers in 1987 and reduced toilet flushing as well as changing to low volume comodes been saving water for decades.

Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 17, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

A few comments, Todd:

There's an article in Le Monde Diplomatique describing life in Sao Paolo when they ran out of water:

"Deforestation in Amazonia in the service of agribusiness has depleted the rainfall in southernmost Latin America and now the powerhouse city of São Paulo is in severe drought."

Web Link

Also, I always think back to the Club of Rome Report, now over 40 years ago called "The Limits to Growth."
We need to think the limits to our local growth. Although limiting growth, so I understand, is unpopular.

Indeed, Israel is a pioneer in desalinization, see the New York Times:

Web Link

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 17, 2015 at 6:46 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

We're going to have to start desalinating. It's the only way we can assure a consistent water supply. It's not cheap. So what?

Posted by jessayn
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2015 at 7:10 am

Rather than going vegan, why don't we start by not consuming less nutrition sustaining and very water consuming agricultural products like rice and wine?

Posted by OPC
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 18, 2015 at 12:58 pm

To add to Todd's comments, we need to distinguish between our local supply of water, used to cook our food, shower and water landscapes; versus water we import that is already in the supply of other goods we consume, like beef. Cutting out beef, except for locally grown meat, won't help our local water shortage, if it's meat that grown in Kansas or Texas. (That's not to say it doesn't have other benefits.)

Reducing outdoor irrigation with potable water is one of the quickest ways we individually can reduce the strain on our local water resources. Another quick step is to check for leaks in your indoor fixtures, like doing a quick check for toilet leaks - Web Link .

Posted by the real iceberg
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 18, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Too many people! We should be promoting responsible family planning and avoid major population growth where natural resources are limited to support it

Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 19, 2015 at 2:16 pm

We may need water trains in the short term. Those DOT-111 tank cars are no longer legal (by the order of the Federal Railroad Administration) to carry crude oil -- usually that VERY explosive Bakken crude -- so they can and should be used to bring water here to California. That could happen much faster than any other long-term solution.

My solution? Replace aging sewage-treatment plants with state-of-the art "toilet-to-tap" wastewater-treatment plants, which take raw sewage, purify it (removing all bacteria, protozoazns, viruses and drug residues, etc.), through reverse osmosis. The water that somes of of this plant is pure distilled water, which could be put directly nto the drinking-water system. In Orange County, where this has been done since 2008, it is, instead, piped to many ponds, which recharge underground aquifers
(pretty fast -- 14 feet a day!). Water in those aquifers is thenpumped out by a number of other cities which could not otherwise access that pure water.

Link to article with fascinating details on how this is done in Orange County:

Web Link

Wastewater treatment plants are getting old, and many need replacing. Why not convert ALL of them to “toilet-to-tap” plants? Too gross, you say? Anyone ever been to one of the cities located on the Mississippi River? Well -- the water you drink there has been through millions of kidneys -- and is NOT anywhere nearly as clean and pure as the water coming out of a toilet-to-tap plant, and this technology uses MUCH less energy than does desalination. And the plants can be put anywhere.

The billions that have been wasted on HSR here in CA could and should have been spent to build many new toilet-to-tap wastewater-treatment plants.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 19, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If you really want to save water then take out your lawn and replace it with artificial turf.

Most Atherton residents, with our large size lots, can reduce their water usage by 60%.

Posted by Matt R
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Apr 20, 2015 at 10:28 am

This article, while true, implies that domestic water use is so small that doing anything there is pointless. This is just wrongheaded. While it is true that ones water footprint is made of more than what is reflected in ones water bill, having anyone do anything there with makes tracking individual choices practically impossible. How would one create a diet credit for low water impact food choices? That is not practicable in any way shape or form. As others have pointed out, much of the water footprint is remote, and the drought is more of a wastern region thing.

Pretty much all of the article and most of the comments boil down to "I'm not the problem. Do other stuff first." In Woodside and PV, this is just false. There are large numbers of people who use many times (more than 10x) the Bay Area average.

Fact is, homes DO use a statistically significant amount of fresh water. Doing waste water reclamation will take years to change permitting and gain acceptance, much less replace any significant amount of installed base.

Also, water use data availability varies by town. Woodside has a pathetic web presence on water use and drought. Protola Valley has per capita water use listed by number of people who fall into many use bins. Direct the derision at the districts that aren't posting their data. PV did it. Other towns can and should.

Anyway, many have been content to just pay for whatever they use, without concern. Many have not taken water use into account when designing landscaping. Many have high water demand landscaping as a legacy of times when water was less of a concern. Something needs to drive change at the domestic consumption level. Eating salad won't do that. Nor will increasing supply via desalinization or turning waste water into potable water.

Yes, agriculture and other industrial water users need to prove use efficiency as well, but let's not kid ourselves: domestic water use reduction is part of the solution as well.

Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 20, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Please consider cessation of development of new housing units.
It's irresponsible to bring more people to the area until we have a reliable water supply & enough roadways to move existing traffic.
Last Friday, eastbound on Woodside Rd after leaving #280 @ 3:28pm, traffic stopped just west of Northgate. It took 8 minutes to get from Northgate to Alameda de las Pulgas.

Posted by Menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 20, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Downtowner, add to "please stop building more housing," please stop building more hotels and corporate office buildings in MP.

Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 20, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Conserving water locally is fine but we need to understand the water statistics. If one divides up the precipitation that falls on the state the breakdown is basically 50% natural watersheds flowing to the ocean, 40% agriculture and 10% cities.

Our leadership has taken the 50% natural watershed out of the discussion at the behest of the environmental community. The result has been an 80% agriculture and 20% city usage statistic floating around.

Our conservation efforts are mostly symbolic. The Sacramento River is currently running right up to its banks.

Please keep this view in mind when calling for draconian changes in water usage behavior or suggesting multi generational family farms should be thrown into bankruptcy.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This court ruling is a BIG problem for using pricing to control water usage:

"LOS ANGELES (AP) — An Orange County appeals court ruled Monday that San Juan Capistrano's tiered water rates are unconstitutional, potentially dealing a blow to agencies statewide that have used the pricing structure to encourage people to save water.

The 3-0 ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal upholds a Superior Court judge's decision that found that charging bigger water users incrementally higher rates violates a voter-approved law that prohibits government agencies from charging more than the cost of a service."

Posted by Matt R
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Apr 20, 2015 at 10:37 pm

The court ruling doesn't affect private companies. Nor does it seem to have problems with the Santa Cruz system where the high use fees are penalties, not tiered rates. Also, tiered rate systems that are based on the cost of providing services are not subject to the ruling. Because San Jaun Capistrano used arbitrary rate tiers, it was in violation of the law. But this is a new wrinkle, for sure.

Also, there seems to be some relief coming to districts that have high farm usage, but what this means to each and every farm is still unclear.

Posted by L
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 21, 2015 at 11:48 am

This whole article relies on the assumption that dairy and cattle in CA only serve CA consumers. Citizens cutting back on dairy and meat would just shift sales to other states and other countries. This article makes no sense to me.

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