Waste Not, Want Not

Did you know that in times of drought, groundwater provides up to 46% of California’s water?  With California’s extended drought going into its fifth year, groundwater has become a very hot topic.  The latest study from Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment looks into “the costs and benefits of using groundwater recharge and storage across the state” and shows that this process, known as managed aquifer recharge (MAR) is one fifth as expensive as building surface water projects.

Palo Alto is already looking into Managed Aquifer Recharge which it is calling Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR).  Task 3.3 of Palo Alto’s RWQCP Recycled Water Strategic Plan Request for Proposal states:  “CONSULTANT shall . . .  identify potential areas for artificial recharge based on favorable geological conditions within the RWQCP’s service area.”

Managed aquifer recharge in Palo Alto will likely be beneficial and necessary in the near future.   But, does it make sense to pump out our City’s groundwater (dewater) and pour it into our storm drains for underground construction in areas with high water tables while then injecting treated waste water into our aquifer?  There are financial, energy, and environmental costs associated with both dewatering and for creating and managing the infrastructure needed to inject treated wastewater into our aquifer.  While Managed Aquifer Recharge will probably grow in importance for California, from our perspective, the easiest and most effective first step to minimize the costs associated with groundwater recharge and storage in Palo Alto is to limit unnecessary shallow groundwater extraction.

We can start by eliminating groundwater extraction for building residential basements.  So far, in 2016, 38.8 million gallons of groundwater were pumped out for the construction of just ONE basement on Garland Drive.  Over 99% of this water was poured into the storm drains and flowed to the Bay, contributing to sea level rise.

The sobering facts related to this construction are shown in the short video below:

Multiple this groundwater extraction for all construction requiring dewatering in Palo Alto and we have a significant loss of valuable water.  Please help us bring these facts to the attention of our elected officials and City staff.




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