The top three are: Drought, drought, drought! We’re in a drought and we don’t know how long this drought will last. So far this year Palo Alto’s total precipitation is below average and less than last year’s, and the water content of the snowpack we depend upon is still below normal, despite El Niño. The drought’s into its 5th year; will it last 10, 15, 20 years? Already, our electric and water rates are going up because of water scarcity. It’s a conundrum how we can have water scarcity and at the same time accept as normal pumping and dumping this scarce resource without its use being maximized.
Groundwater is our savings account for times of drought. Climate scientists are telling us to expect more precipitation as rain and less as snow and that in the near future we’ll be more dependent on groundwater as the snowpack that has historically provided us with water diminishes.
The level of Palo Alto’s groundwater has decreased recently. Some residents of Palo Alto and nearby communities, who for various purposes rely on the same shallow groundwater that is being pumped and dumped for construction, report that their wells are dry or that they can’t use their geothermal heating due to low groundwater levels. Will we have enough water for a 20-year drought? We have no idea. Does it make sense to discard this groundwater knowing we might need every last bit of water next year or a few years from now?
Water is not a limitless resource. As California’s cities and farmers are state-mandated to reduce water consumption well below 2013 levels, should not homeowners and builders be mandated to research and follow best practices for minimizing water waste during construction? We urge you to write to our local officials and ask them to regulate and charge for the water that is pumped. With the drought and our growing population, we can wait until there’s not enough readily available water for everyone or we can proactively conserve the water we still have and use it in a sustainable manner.
We truly are all in this together.