Working with the Construction Industry to Find Better Ways for Basement Construction

Few, if any of us, realized that groundwater depletion contributes to sea level rise.  In fact, together with melting ice caps and glaciers and water’s thermal expansion due to global warming, groundwater depletion is considered a significant and growing contributor. Now that we know that groundwater depletion contributes to sea level rise, it is easy to visualize how “dewatering” – the construction practice of pumping out shallow groundwater and pouring it down our storm drains to end at the Bay – contributes to this problem.

But, we have some good news: Save Palo Alto’s Groundwater reached out to a group of building  professionals including Palo Alto resident and architect Dan Garber, geotechnical engineer Andrew Murray from Murray Engineering and  American Drilling Contractors.  This group of professionals,  with the help and support of our City’s Department of Public Works, proposed and hope to soon test, a different method for basement construction.  We are hoping that this construction method will generate 80 – 90% less water waste from dewatering.  We and this group of building professionals are also brainstorming ways to reduce that remaining 10 – 20% water waste to zero.  All of us who care about our groundwater and sea level rise appreciate the building professionals’ willingness to work with us and tackle this important environmental issue.

Our next step will be to ask the City to revise its building codes to prescribe basement construction methods that significantly reduce dewatering.  We feel this will benefit homeowners instead of the expensive and inconclusive (because the soils are too heterogeneous) studies currently required.  However, if alternative construction practices are not effective, we will ask the City to pursue other policies that reduce and ultimately eliminate groundwater depletion. If you care about our environment, we urge you to stay informed and make your views known to City Council.

As always, thank you for your support and engagement!

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