We Did It! But More to Do!

Based on the City’s data (below), with an average of 13.9 million gallons of groundwater pumped per residential basement, the City saved 42 million gallons of groundwater in 2017. This fresh yet non-potable water is almost 17 times the amount of emergency water stored in Palo Alto’s El Camino reservoir. Unfortunately, one hundred fifteen (115) million gallons of groundwater went down the storm drains so, clearly, there’s still work to be done.

Thank you to City Council for encouraging new ideas, to Public Works for exploring new options and doing all the heavy lifting, to the construction industry who shared their knowledge, skills and expertise, to the homeowners who chose to use cut-off walls for construction and especially to all of you for your support and advocacyIn case you missed it, the Palo Alto Weekly covered this topic in greater detail in a very informative article about dewatering/basement construction. Two of our members were quoted (nice job Keith and Dan!) and Dan’s illustrations of the broad area and local area dewatering methods were featured. So thank you also to the news media for covering this important issue. We would be remiss not to also thank the members of our own Advisory Board for their time and wise counsel and Palo Alto Matters, another highly regarded and highly recommended local publication, for its coverage of dewatering among other issues of concern to Palo Altans .

Now, for the work that lies ahead: the second reading of the 2018 Dewatering Ordinance took place Jan. 22nd.  We did not oppose the ordinance as written but think it does not go far enough in protecting our groundwater as it does not address dewatering for commercial construction nor dewatering near contaminated sites.    We would like to see some standards codified for commercial construction and dewatering near contaminated sites instead of these being decided on a case by case basis. These will help provide clarity and fairness for all stakeholders.

In addition to clear, effective regulations for commercial sites, we would like the city to adopt regulations for all projects that limit the amount and rate of water pumped.  These two are the key metrics that determine impacts on neighbors and relate directly to groundwater preservation. No one should be permitted to pump and dump arbitrary amounts of groundwater, period.

For years groundwater has been “out of sight, out of mind”. With Cape Town expected to run out of water in a few months and another looming drought in California we cannot afford to take groundwater for granted. As is already the case in Florida, due to a growing population and sea level rise, groundwater management will become ever more important for Palo Alto and other Bay Area cities. We hope the entire community continues to support our efforts to ensure that Palo Alto uses this natural resource wisely.

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1 Response to We Did It! But More to Do!

  1. Betty Jo says:


    Good on you! I am so pleased to see the effects of your efforts to incentivize more sensible basement construction methods. It’s been a dry winter. Ground water conservation will be even more important as a result.

    Betty Jo

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