What Are Your Reasons?

We’ve been asked why we oppose dewatering. These are some of our reasons:

1. There are better ways to build basements that dramatically reduce the amount of water wasted.

2. Water Scarcity/Water Security

  • We’re in a drought.
  • We have a growing population.
  • Other cities (East Palo Alto, San Jose, etc.) are asking for a greater allocation from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, our common supplier.
  • The Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan calls for 40% of unimpaired water flow from February to June.  Personally, we support this Plan which will result in healthier rivers and ecosystems but it will mean a lower water allocation for all.
  • “Groundwater is really our savings account: it’s the last resort, it’s what we have to use when there’s no precipitation” J. Koseff, Ph. D., Director of Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

dying river

3. Environment

  • Dewatering is an environmentally unsound practice – it reduces recharge to streams, rivers, wetlands and the deeper aquifer, it contributes to sea level rise, etc.
  • Groundwater supports our buildings and infrastructure and is a hedge against salt water intrusion and subsidence.
  • Contrary to current conventional wisdom, the shallow and deeper aquifers are connected (San Mateo County Groundwater Plan Meeting, 2016).

4. Safety

  • The deeper aquifer is the source of our emergency water supply.
  • The Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) needs to keep importing (scarce and ever more expensive) water to recharge our aquifer.  Recharging our aquifer avoids overdrafting and subsidence as happened in the 1960s.
  • With climate change and sea level rise, groundwater levels will rise also.  This study concludes that underground construction in which the current groundwater level is 4m [13 feet] or less will get flooded.  “We’re building tomorrow’s risk today”.

5. Community Resource

  • Groundwater is a community resource – less than 1% of groundwater pumped for basement construction comes from the property being dewatered, the rest comes from neighboring properties.
  • Residents want to know why they should conserve water when they see water gushing down the drains.
  • Dewatering does not adhere to the “Lead by example” and “designate a guardian of the future” principles in Palo Alto’s Sustainability/Climate Action Plan.
  • This groundwater is the birthright of our children and all residents, present and future.

These are some of our reasons – you may have others to share with our elected officials. Please send letters to city.council@cityofpaloalto.org. For sample letters check out item 4 in our How to Get Involved page.

Thank you for caring about Palo Alto’s groundwater.


This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What Are Your Reasons?

  1. Paul Saunders says:

    Groundwater is a common resource. If you remove it from one spot it should be returned back into the ground someplace else so that there is no net loss. Instead of pumping out into storm drains, collect it and transport it to local reservoirs. This way a precious resource is not wasted. The extra cost should be part of the price of building and will discourage digging basements which are a bad idea in this area anyway because of the soft soil and its liability to turn to quicksand in an earthquake.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.