Neighbors concerned of water waste at Palo Alto construction site

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTVU) - Thousands of gallons of water being purposely pumped from the ground in Palo Alto has some residents concerned about wasting water during the drought.

Resident Karen Ewart said she first noticed water being diverted into storm drains at the intersection of Harker Avenue and Newell Road six days ago.

Since then, she and several other community members have expressed concern over what is happening.

"Every time I turn on the news, every time I get on Facebook, every time I look at Twitter... it's save water, save water, save water," Ewart said. "This is a huge waste of water. We could use that water. We could use that water. Every lawn on this block could use that water."

The pipe that ends at the storm drain can be traced about a half block back to a construction site.

According to Assistant Director Phil Bobel with Palo Alto Public Works, there are three construction locations in which water is being pumped and diverted to the drains. The water ultimately ends up in the San Francisco Bay.

Bobel said the owners of each property are pumping out the water from a shallow aquifer beneath their land to build a basement in their future home.

"We haven't measured it but an estimate would be 50 gallons a minute," Bobel said. "That is a lot of water."

At 50 gallons a minute, approximately 72,000 gallons of water is being diverted per day from each location. Plus, the pumping can last anywhere from six months to more than one year.

"We're searching and trying to get good brainstorming from all people involved to see if we can reuse a higher percentage of this water without breaking the bank for anyone," he said.

For now, Bobel said the city has required contractors place a valve system at the construction sites. This allows city crews and others to fill water trucks and street sweepers. Private parties can also fill trucks and containers. The fill stations are located at 1405 Harker, 2133 Webster and 1934 Waverley.

According to the contractor located at 1934 Waverley, a hose bib will be installed by Friday to allow residents to gather water for their lawns.

Bobel said the water should not be used for drinking, rather for only irrigation and dust control purposes.

Residents just want to see a better solution rather than seeing water go down the drain.

"The general consensus is if you have the money to build these huge homes, you should dedicate a little extra to trucking the water out," Ewart added.

Anyone interested in filling containers or water trucks at any of the three sites should call Palo Alto Public Works at 650-617-3103.