Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - February 14, 2014

Recycled water to the rescue

After more than a decade of resistance, recycled water is coming to Pleasanton. Purple pipes to carry the treated water already are in the ground along the newly extended section of Stoneridge Drive, with recycled water purchased from Livermore -- a longtime user of recycled water -- now being used to irrigate Stoneridge Creek Park and nearby public land.

Purple pipes were also installed when Alisal Street was rebuilt to better serve city-owned Callippe Preserve Golf Course. Now, operations director Daniel Smith and his crew at the city's water division are working with the Dublin San Ramon Services District to build connection pipes from that facility's recycle treatment plant in order to use recycled water, instead of potable drinking water, to irrigate Callippe.

The move to bring recycled water to Pleasanton comes after years of protests from some in the community who believe tertiary water could pollute underground water tables, which Pleasanton has in abundance and has long carefully guarded.

Some may recall a City Council meeting when newly elected state Assemblyman Tom Torlakson (now California's superintendent of public instruction) was forced to give his remarks next to a battery-powered flushing toilet, placed there by a roomful of residents there to protest a recycling water plan. The plan was defeated.

Now with the California drought causing water shortage concerns in Pleasanton and throughout the state, recycled water may spare us from a severe shortage, if not this year then the next unless a series of Pineapple Expresses such as the one we had last weekend keep coming.

At Smith's urging, the City Council adopted a resolution Feb. 4 declaring a water shortage in Pleasanton and implemented a "Stage 1" contingency plan by requesting everyone to voluntarily reduce water usage by 20%. That amounts to roughly 50 gallons a day from the city's calculated baseline of 244 gallons per person per day. It's still too early to know how this will affect water flow from the Zone 7 Water Agency, where Pleasanton receives 80% of its water -- with another 20% coming from city-owned and operated groundwater wells.

Some cities are already imposing water-saving measures. Santa Cruz is barring restaurants from serving water with meals except when requested by diners.

Sacramento residents are now prohibited from using sprinklers on weekdays or washing cars with a hose. According to the Wall Street Journal, city workers and neighborhood watch groups are patrolling Sacramento streets looking for scofflaws.

Suffering the most are farmers whose limited water allocations will mean more fallow fields and earlier-to-the-slaughterhouse cattle stock, which will mean beef shortages and higher prices in the not-too-distant future.

While last weekend's rainfall was less than needed in the Tri-Valley, it was heavier to the north with sizable snowfall in the Sierra Nevada. The weeks ahead will determine just how extensive drought conditions will remain.

In the meantime, we need to do our part in cutting usage as Pleasanton finally gets serious about using recycled water for public land irrigation, and even for our fire hydrants as Livermore does. When we see purple pipes and water-main covers, that means progress is being made.

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