What Is Palo Alto’s Groundwater Budget?

We don’t have one!  Spend our groundwater now, pay later.

Last evening, Keith Bennett, representing Save Palo Alto’s Groundwater, presented to the City Council a “groundwater budget” for San Francisquito Creek from a 2012 report by Todd Engineers. One of his more important assertions is that this report directly contradicts several of the key arguments in the 2004 EIP report used by City staff to support the current practice of dewatering (pumping out water for basement construction):

  • the erroneous implication that the surface groundwater simply “flows to the Bay” and   is unrelated to our potable or emergency water supplies
  • the erroneous assertion that the surface and deep aquifers aren’t connected.

In fact, according to this report, the vast majority (>99%) of the water in the surface aquifer enters the deep aquifer which serves as our emergency water supply and/or is pumped for human use. While the estimates in the Todd Engineering report have uncertainties, there is no doubt that water from basement construction is a significant fraction of our water budget.  See Keith’s 2-minute power point presentation here (pdf file).

Before we pump any more water, we need a Palo Alto-specific groundwater management plan that includes our groundwater budget and considers that this groundwater is part of our emergency water supply.

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