Please Join Us! Dewatering Regulations March 7th, 6 PM, City Hall

Palo Alto’s City Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, March 7th, 6 pm at City Hall, 285 Hamilton, to discuss and determine dewatering regulations for 2017 and 2018.    Please join us and let the City Council know that this issue matters to you.

City Staff is proposing to incorporate the 2016 dewatering guidelines as an ordinance in 2017, and to return to Council with a proposal for additional enhancements to the ordinance in 2018.  The 2018 enhancements will depend on getting data from 2017 construction projects in which applicants use cut-off walls instead of broad area dewatering for building basements where the groundwater level is high.  For a brief description of the difference between these two construction methods, please read our Feb.  5th blog titled “Building basements without wasting water”.  In short, using cut-off walls requires a lot less dewatering than the method currently used.

Unfortunately, in Staff’s proposal, the use of cut-off walls is voluntary, and the incentives to do so are minimal.  Note: The Agenda and Staff Report are now available and can be downloaded from our website or the City’s.

We agree to Staff’s recommendations for 2017 with the addition of

  • Stronger incentives to reduce groundwater extraction,
  • Requirement that the new regulations apply, without exception, to all new projects in 2017 (no grandfathering) and
  • Enforcement of all approved regulations.
  • Additionally, the stated goal for 2018 should be zero waste of groundwater.

Last year five of eight dewatering projects were “grandfathered.”  This means that most of the 2016 Dewatering Guidelines did not apply to them.  And the guidelines that were supposed to apply to all, such as fines for going over a 10-week limit on the pumping duration were simply not enforced.

With this year’s rain, some may think saving groundwater is not necessary.  However, droughts are recurrent in California and due to climate change, future drought periods are expected to last longer.  We all need to continue conserving and managing our groundwater wisely to ensure adequate future supplies.  Read our December 9 blog for additional reasons why groundwater extraction is not sustainable.

Please join us to support our requests.  Or, bring your own requests and concerns. We are not against basements; just the waste of a precious and limited community resource.  If you’re unable to attend, please email the City Council at

As always, thank you for your support and we hope to see you on March 7th at City Hall.

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