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By Tim Hunt

Drought challenges Pleasanton officials

Uploaded: Jun 24, 2014

The Pleasanton City Council and city operations director Daniel Smith have made their share of headlines as they establish policies to battle the drought that is affecting their residents as well as people in Livermore, Dublin and the Dougherty Valley area of San Ramon.
All three are under orders from the Zone 7 water agency to reduce usage 25 percent. Zone 7's challenge is simple and most challenging. In a normal year, 80 percent of the water provided comes through the Delta and is delivered by the State Water Project pumps near Tracy to the South Bay Aqueduct that conveys it into the valley and then south to Fremont and the South Bay. This year, there is no water available until September when a 5 percent allocation is scheduled to be delivered.
That means Zone 7 is relying on ground water. For all the water managers, the immense challenge is there is no telling what next year will bring in terms of rainfall and snowfall. 2013 was a record dry year and 2014 has been little better with a tiny snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.
The retailers have taken a variety of approaches with the Pleasanton council deciding to maintain rates for people who achieved the 25 percent reduction instead of raising rates across the board. With the program starting May 1, many people have yet to see their bimonthly bills and have flooded the water department with more than 3,000 calls. If residents fail to reach their reduction goal, then stiff penalties kick in.
Smith wrote in an email that the city's goal is to achieve the reductions without fining any resident.
He also pointed out that the city is leading the way—tearing out lawn around city offices and replacing it with native plants that are much more drought-resistant. Similar projects have been completed at the Amador Theater, fire station three and several medians. In the two months from March 13 to May 13, the city reduced water usage by 70 percent. In the current period, irrigation water used in the parks is down 36 percent.
One of the challenges that has become an opportunity is the city's reluctance to utilize recycled water. It is using recycled water at Val Vista Park, which is next to the DSRSD water treatment plant. It also is trucking recycled water to south Pleasanton to irrigate the Callippe Preserve Golf Course.
The big opportunity that should take place next year is utilizing the existing dual piping in Hacienda Business Park so it can be irrigated with recycled water. Smith indicated that the environmental review is underway and design work should start in July.
An even better target is the Ken Mercer Sports Park which uses potable water to irrigate almost 100 acres of turf. Moving to recycled water there will allow the city crews to irrigate as they want to maintain excellent conditions without regard to drought.
One of the interesting balancing acts is the mineral content of the recycled water. For example, coastal redwoods that are planted in many areas of town have low tolerances to salt.