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Cal Water proposes water budgets for each customer

Original post made on May 7, 2015

Cal Water has asked the state PUC to approve its drought plan, effective June 1, which proposes financial penalties for using more than a budgeted amount of water and more penalties for "misuse or waste" of water.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 7, 2015, 11:39 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by Al Haimson
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on May 7, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Might be useful to publish list of typical use in household:

How many gals / minute for shower

How many gals per average dishwasher

How many gals /min for washing machine



Posted by gunste
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 7, 2015 at 12:33 pm

This may be simple for Cal Water, but is grossly unfair to those of us who started saving water by many possible means during the 1987 drought. At that time I reduced toilet flushing, installed a dropper system after getting rid of a lawn and generally paid attention to water use. Further, the number of people living in the house and doing laundry increased from 1 to 2 in the middle of 2013. - If Cal Water does not take cognizance of such efforts and changes, they will be guilty of just upping their revenue without regard to customer situations.

a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on May 7, 2015 at 12:34 pm

@aL - try this

type "google", hit enter

type or copy "typical household water use"


read all the things that have been published this drought

or the last one

or the last one

It took Al longer to type and post His message than to google "typical household water use" and hit one of the links.

No wonder we use too much water.

EPA Web Link

KQED Web Link

a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on May 7, 2015 at 12:40 pm

@gunste is a perfect example of the intellectually curious water user, and back in 87, we can bet he didn't have a search engine!

Posted by concerned about drought
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 7, 2015 at 12:46 pm

This seems very unfair to lower water users. Households that have been conscientious about water use for the past few years will have to make more draconian cuts, while people who have huge, well-watered lawns will merely cut back their watering schedule, while still consuming many times the gallons of lower users. In the words of another Almanac piece, "10 percent of Woodside residents used 38 percent of the town's water consumption. Those consumers averaged 1,336 gallons per person per day. The other 90 percent of residents averaged 242 gallons per person per day."

I am all for providing incentives for everyone to reduce water use, but using the same percent reduction for all users seems both inefficient (allowing huge water consumers to continue to use much water) and unfair.

Posted by Westside Trucker
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 7, 2015 at 1:01 pm

We started conserving 3 or 4 years ago by installing a hot water pump at the origin that gives hot water immediately at the shower head-no waiting. We also installed 2 low flush toilets,a new front loading low water washer,a pool cover plus converting 85% of our plants to drip irrigation.
Now we are penalized for conserving early.
How about the elderly and sick who might need a little more water?

Posted by PV Res
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on May 7, 2015 at 1:06 pm

I called CA Water a couple of weeks ago, concerned that I would be restricted by the state more than I had been restricting myself. However, that was not the case. When I called and told them my account number, they were surprised that my water usage was in fact very low. They assured me that they were not trying to reduce my use further, but that many people that have called claiming frugal water use in fact multiply my usage many times over. As this article comes out, I see that I am completely unaffected by the restrictions. As a matter of fact, I can actually increase usage, but will not. We are fine. Let's not all get up in arms until we've given it a try.

Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2015 at 4:03 pm

@Al, there is a wide range associated with appliances, so it is hard to post a list of usage. Your questions are like asking how much gas a car uses. It depends on the car and what it is carrying.

Showers: 3.5 gpm for "regular", 2.5 gpm for low-flow, 1.5 gpm for ultra-low flow

Sinks: 2.2 gpm for regular, 1.5 gpm for low-flow, down to 0.5 gpm for ultra-low flow

Toilets: any installed after 1991 are 1.5 gallons per flush max, new models can be 1.28 gallons or even 1.0 gallons per flush

Dishwashers: depends on the age and how they are used. Newer models use much less than older ones, but have lots of cycles so you can't give one number. Heavy duty cycles use more than light cycles. Some have Auto which adjusts the water usage to the particular load being washed.

Washing machines also vary a lot. The new HE models use much less water than older models, and some automatically sense the size of the load and use just enough water for that load.

Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on May 7, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

I am meeting with Cal Water Friday afternoon to get answers to some of our readers' questions. Please post your questions here and I will get as many answers as possible.

Posted by ABC
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 7, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Thanks, Barbara Wood.

What's the advice on how to save established trees, while cutting back water in other areas of the landscaping?

Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 7, 2015 at 9:35 pm

How, exactly, will Cal Water personnel "verify a customer is using potable water for non-essential, wasteful uses"? Is Cal Water going to take the word of neighbors? Will Cal Water be hiring new employees to be roving "water police"?

Is Cal Water really going to cut off all water to customers who continue to waste water? That is awful! I am not at all in favor of people wasting water, but, really -- cutting of someone's water??

Is Cal Water Bear Gulch District really ever going to impose any draconian measures on any of the multi-millionaires and billionaires who have homes in this district?

Are people who use very little water still bound by the rules banning non-essential uses of potable water? I think so, but I just wanted to be sure.

I think we do all need to be careful how we use our precious drinking water. But -- imposing the same standards on everyone, whether or not the person has been conserving all along, is ridiculous. And quite unfair.

At least we are allowed 600 CF of water per month per person before any cutbacks.

Barbara Wood ---
Thanks in advance for any answers you will get from Cal Water to these important questions. I ask these questions here, so that everyone who reads this will know the answers, and not just me. (People at Cal Water have been very courteous and more than willing to answer any questions I have.)

Posted by central
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 8, 2015 at 9:16 am

The limit is stated as 600 cf per *customer* (i.e. per bill), not per person. It is based on an average number of people per household; doing the math of 4488 gallons per month and average of 55 gall/day/person, that suggests they have set this limit based on ~2.7 persons per household.

Households with > 2.7 occupants are clearly penalized by this method used to determine the budget. It is one thing to penalize households for wasteful usage, but to penalize based on the number of people is just plain wrong. A household could be far below the 55 gall/day/person usage and still have to pay penalties.

Posted by Carolyn D
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 8, 2015 at 10:47 am

Thanks for this opportunity to ask questions to CalWater. Here's a couple:

1) I understand that the district is required to reduce consumption by 36%, and I understand that it is easiest for the district to apply a mandatory cutback of 36% to all customers, but that is not fair. Shouldn't the district analyze their customers' water consumption activity and require a higher reduction rate for those consumers who are using the most water? If the district had household number and lot size, couldn't they determine a more realistic and fairer ration target? I live in Menlo Park, and because my house is serviced by Bear Gulch District it is being proposed that we reduce by 36%; if my house were serviced by MP Water District we would be required to reduce by 25%. What a difference a few blocks make!

2) What about people that grow much of their own fruits and vegetables? We grow our food to have healthier choices, and to conserve energy (no food transportation costs, no packaging, less waste, etc). While we would save water by taking out our vegetable garden and buying our produce at the store, we would still end up eating food that consumed water-it would just be water coming from somewhere else, but not a net water savings to the State. Will there be any opportunities to avoid excess water penalties related to growing your own food for personal consumption?

Thanks. Looking forward to your interview results.

Just a comment, but I wanted to say that it certainly is challenging for the water district to manage this. It's too bad we are now in a position where the district has to be the enforcer, rather than the community as a whole having taken this seriously and made the measures that will now be mandated. It is difficult to have a one-size-fits-all policy-there are many variables. Households range from 1 - XX people, and lot sizes vary immensely. I think it is important for the district to continue to have public meetings and be transparent about their policies.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 8, 2015 at 10:56 am

Barbara, my question is, rather than try to micromanage what people do with their water, why doesn't the district simply:

1. Have a minimum "life-sustaining" tier of usage at a cheap price.
2. Have all usage above this tier at a price that matches supply and demand.

It would be much fairer and less arbitrary.

Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 8, 2015 at 11:23 am

lessons learned is a registered user.

The "average" 2.7 means that households with children are being penalized.

Imposing the same % cutbacks on MP residents as on Atherton residents -- who on average use about 7x as much water per person/day -- is grossly unfair and regressive. Shouldn't there be an upper limit on how much water each household should use? No reason that the people with water-hungry landscaping should still be consuming 7x as much water as we are, when some of us already have lo-flo everything, cacti instead of annuals, and kids who only bathe every other day.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 8, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Shouldn't there be an upper limit on how much water each household should use? "

Please read the entire article which states:

"A second violation will result in a fine of $50 in the Stage 2 restrictions; a third violation will result in a $100 fine; and a fourth violation (or an "egregious" violation, which is not defined) will result in the installation of a flow-restricting device on the service line."

"The flow restricting device will allow at least 300 cubic feet of water (2,244 gallons or 3 CCF) per person per month. Cal Water can discontinue customer service if the customer continues to waste water even with the flow restricting device, the plan proposes."

Posted by wcs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 8, 2015 at 1:05 pm


Thank you for soliciting our questions. I think that's a first. Much appreciated!

Could you ask how these restrictions will be applied to existing and new properties owned by large businesses such as FaceBook, Stanford, and others in our industrial area near FB (any entities adding new office buildings, hotels and employee housing).

Could you ask how this will be applied to our Burgess facilities and Services?

How will they account for measures residents have already taken - recently or long since?

Could you ask how the difference in residential lot size will be addressed?

Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on May 8, 2015 at 6:09 pm

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

I met with Cal Water officials for an hour and a half and will write up what I learned from our meeting by Monday. The main thing that will answer many of the questions, though, is that Cal Water plans to have an appeals process for special situations. For some things it will be able to be done over the phone by looking up your records. They plan to make allowances in water budgets for people who have been conserving for some time, or who use less water than the average user in our area. People who have more than the 2.7 members of their household can also use the appeals process. It will be in place by June 1, and they hope earlier. Customers will also have a full billing cycle to make their appeal.

Posted by AMP
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 8, 2015 at 9:04 pm

I rent; as so many people do and don't have access to the bills; to know what our usage is. Second, many of us live in older homes and have none of the water saving things installed that home owners have. There needs to be an incentive for landlords to comply with new rules. Is there a rebate or incentive program for them? When a landlord won't fix a water waste issue; what can renters do about it?

I cut back on water use drastically last year; reusing water from my kitchen sink and water from cleaning with organic soaps to clean outside and water plants. Vinegar and water is great for roses! I'm still planting in coconut coir, which holds 8x more water than soil does; then capturing run off from planters to water other things. My sprinkler has only been on a few times; to ensure a stray cigarette wouldn't cause a fire in the dry grass. A dead or brown lawn should be a sign that someone isn't wasting water and a green one should prompt restrictions!

Honestly; I can't cut back by that much and function; I minimized to the furthest extent I can last year. What are we supposed to do? Being conscientious humans in our community is going to hurt us. It's irrational. It'll drive the most committed members of the community out and you'll end up with bigger problems. It's bad business and bad policy.

Usage should first be based on the Actual number of residents. Then, by square footage of property that needs to be kept wet enough not to be a fire hazard. Simple. Pools should be unused if they are more decorative than functional and a credit should be offered as an incentive. That's common sense.

Let's see a plan with more common sense and justice behind it. This is the 1% favoritism and it's repulsive. People will just pour vinegar on those lawns or let their dogs urinate on them to retaliate and it'll cause a criminal mischief issue.
People aren't going to lie down and just take this.

Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 8, 2015 at 9:05 pm

Barbara Wood --
I appreciate your efforts and look forward to your report.

Cal Water is is going to be absolutely buried under a huge mountain of appeals -- and rightly so! And people will have only ONE billing cycle to appeal these stupid rules? Ridiculous!

It is way past time for all the state water agencies to speak with one voice and tell Governor Brown and the California State Water Resources Control Board to go pound sand -- until the Governor and the Water Board have proved they understand basic fairness and decency -- and basic math. Residential water users use only 20% of the state's water, and if the average cutback is supposed to be 25%, that works out to only 5% less water being used. They are going after the wrong target!

I myself am not in favor of anyone using water irresponsibly. I just strongly object to residential users being singled out for possibly harsh treatment, when Big Ag and big developers are not subject to any cutbacks at all -- and probably never will be

This is an epic FAIL in dealing with this horrible drought.

Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 8, 2015 at 10:56 pm

lessons learned is a registered user.

Peter, you are referring to restrictions. I was talking about the budget. If you had read the article carefully, you would have seen this line:

"The water budget, Ms. Smithson said, will be 36 percent below what the customer used in the same period in 2013."

Therefore, the Atherton residents who used 500 gallons/person/day in 2013 will be cut back to a mere 320 gallons/person/day. I'm suggesting that ALL water users be required to stay under a maximum that is substantially lower than 320 gallons/person/day.That the people who have been water wasters should be expected to cut back by a greater percentage than those of us who have used water sparingly.

Since that would disadvantage the rich, I don't expect it to happen, but if we really care about conserving water, why not cut where you can save the most?

Posted by Water Rates
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 9, 2015 at 8:16 am

There's speculation about CalWater running to the PUC to get a rate increase. Once people start saving water, they will have a revenue decrease and need an adjustment to operate.

Though, I will point out, the fixed cost of service is $100 / month for a 1.5" line (required because of the stupid government mandated fire sprinkler system in my home).

We conserved last month, but the water bill dipped only a small amount. It's not the consumption that drives the bill; it's the fixed cost of service.

Can't wait for the rates to increase to make up for the lost sales. No good deed goes unpunished.

Posted by Alicia2000
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 9, 2015 at 1:31 pm

When will Californians see the truth and realize that our water problem cannot be solved by restricting residential water use? Residential households use less than 3% of California's water but meat and dairy industries use over 55%. ( California's water footprint report by Pacific Institute). Meat and dairy industries are the most inefficient most irresponsible users of water. Aside from being the highest contributor to the pollution of our waterways and rivers, Meat &Dairy is a major producer of greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change and contributing to the severity of droughts.

Furthermore, an average vegan diet uses 400 gallons of water per day, a Vegetarian diet uses 1200 gallons whereas a meat eater's diet uses a galloping 4000-18000 gallons of water per day. (Diet for New America by John Robbins). A lot of meat eaters think eating meat is a choice but they have to realize that their choice is eating the flesh of someone who lived a miserable life in a farm that uses water irresponsibly, contributes to water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and suffered a violent death in a slaughterhouse that uses even more water. When an act involves the killing of someone, the act is not a choosing what to eat but choosing to partake in murder and partake in water pollution and contributing to greenhouse gas emission.

We live on 1.5 acre most of which is devoted to growing vegetables and fruits. Our yard is our food supply. Our family of 5 only eats plant based diet and never eat any animals or anything that comes from an animal. CalWater has to give rebates to users who use the water to grow vegetables.

Posted by Athlete
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2015 at 9:13 pm

your comments on vegans would be much more effective if I had ever seen a robust, vibrant, energetic and healthy vegan. Most people don't have the nutritional knowledge to do veganism in a healthy way. The ones I have known end up as scrawny, malnourished low-energy zombies with slack-eyed stares and not enough energy to be productive. I eat nearly no beef, but I eat enough fish, fowl and other meats to maintain a healthy protein intake to maintain my muscle mass and energy level. If everyone in the state tried to go vegan I think we would be in big trouble in a couple of years. If everbody just cut back on their meat intake we could be fine.

Posted by Rahm
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 10, 2015 at 8:26 am

Never let a serious crisis go to waste.

It would appear that this drought is being used as an excuse to push a pro-vegan agenda. Instead of focusing on practical conservation measures (limiting growth, controlling immigration, conserving water by both industry and consumers) as well as badly needed water transport and storage infrastructure, let's focus on eating more veggies.

Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on May 11, 2015 at 10:53 am

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

Here is the story from my meeting Friday with Cal Water officials:
Web Link

Posted by Central Valley Trip
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 11, 2015 at 11:31 pm

During a recent road trip through Central Valley, we could see that the root of California’s water problem isn’t lawns or long showers, it’s the animal agribusiness. Miles of land were devoted to growing alfalfa which is more water inefficient than growing rice. Trucks were carrying alfalfa to animal feeding operations in no man’s land where hundreds of thousands of cows were kept in close confinement. Heavy stench from these operations spread over 70 miles was immensely disturbing and made us question our values as a civil society. At what point in our history did it become acceptable to us to keep animals in such miserable conditions?

Inhumane treatment of animals aside, it is ludicrous to ignore the amount of water animal agriculture uses. An article published in Sacramento Bee mentioned that it takes 1800 to 2500 gallons of water to obtain one pound of beef, 1000 gallons of water to grow one broiler chicken, and 900 gallons of water to obtain gallon of milk. To put this in perspective, a California resident can save more water skipping one purchase of a chicken than by skipping six months of showers and save 850 gallons of water by buying a gallon of soy milk instead of cow’s milk. Water restrictions by the Governor do not include animal agribusiness which uses over 80% of water in California (including water used for crops fed to animals and slaughterhouse and meat processing plants) possibly because animal agribusiness has powerful political lobbies. It is easier to go after residential water users who use less than 3% of water in California. I agree that we should use less water on our lawns but we have to recognize that we can get to the root of the problem by shifting our diets from animal based proteins to plant based proteins, get healthier and shrink the powerful animal agribusiness with the power of our wallets.

Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 12, 2015 at 12:33 am

California uses roughly 25 billion gallons per day on Agriculture (source: Web Link ); assuming the water used by exported food roughly balance water used by imported food, and figuring 37 million people, that 675 gallons per person per day for food. That's a whole lot, but I'm not sure where Alicia gets 4000 to 18000 gallons per day, given that most Californians are not vegans.

Posted by Alicia2000
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 12, 2015 at 9:26 am

Alan, I compiled the 4000-18000 number from Pacific Institute's California's Water Footprint Report and John Robbin's book "Diet for New America". It takes 1800 gallons of water to obtain a pound of factory farmed beef and 9000 gallons of water to obtain grass fed pasture raised beef. Factory farmed beef is more water efficient than pasture raised beef but still requires enormous amounts of water compared to growing vegetables. If a person eats a pound of grass fed beef for lunch and dinner and consumes two eggs, two sausages a quarter gallon of milk, cheese and butter for breakfast -- (about 1200 gallons of water) get the idea...Dairy is very water inefficient.

The crucial point is household water use in California is a drop in the bucket. We can stop showering, stop watering our lawns, and stop flushing our toilets, but the water used to raise and slaughter millions of cows, pigs, and chickens in California will still drain the State dry and the millions of tons of animal waste and methane gas produced by cows in factory farms will still pollute our waterways and our air. We have prioritized the fair use of water in the State Constitution. In re-evaluating State priorities, factory farms and animal agriculture must be held to the same scrutiny as urban households.

Governor said, "people should realize we are in a new era." However, the State's current plan keeps the old era intact for animal factory farms by not requiring them to change their wasteful water usage at all. It is within our legal rights to require thirsty animal agriculture related industries to reduce waste, and as we watch our water evaporate, it's time to exercise that right.

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