Water experts talk diversifying water supply at city summit

More droughts likely, experts said

Members of local water agencies and economic boards gathered Tuesday morning to tackle a looming, difficult question: What can be done to weather the drought, given that the current approach isn't working?

The East Bay Leadership Council and the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce held a summit to discuss the region's water supply crisis.

East Bay's water retailers are in a tough spot this year. The years-long drought has complicated their existing plans for how they normally received water, and not all retailers are getting the water they need from their current suppliers.

Locally, water retailers in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin buy their water from the Zone 7 Water Agency, and the retailers then sell to homes and businesses. A big problem is Zone 7 buys its water from a faltering state project that hasn't been supplying enough water to meet demand -- snowfall is the key to the project's water supply, and there's been little snowfall during the drought.

The fact that California is growing -- increasing demand for water -- and that climate change is altering the way the state's weather works compounds the problem. Experts also touched upon a key, if unsettling point: Periods of drought may be the new normal, and agencies have to prepare for that possibility.

Newsha Ajami, director of Urban Water Policy at Stanford University, said the plans water agencies made 50 years ago aren't holding up to today's demands.

"Some of the assumptions we made on that complicated system are not working anymore," she said.

So, what can local agencies do to make sure homes, businesses and farmers have the water they need?

Speakers at the summit focused on diversifying supply, rethinking demand and encouraging partnerships to tear down bureaucratic walls that complicate the problem.

Since retailers feel Zone 7's water source isn't reliable, various water retailers are looking to supplement their water needs by building reservoirs, building pipelines to buy water from northern areas of California or creating a desalination plant in the San Francisco Bay, among other ideas.

Speakers discussed the pros and cons of some options, emphasizing there may be better options than building new infrastructure, such as partnering with agencies that already have infrastructure in place.

B.J. Miller, former vice chairman of the California State Water Resources Control Board, encouraged water retailers to pursue solutions in their own backyard, rather than buying water from far away. He said two of the most important tools for any water retailer nowadays is deal-making and public education.

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4 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Well I will throw it out there. I did not hear one solution just a bunch of discussion. Aren't we into the 4th year of this drought? Here is a thought. Let's cap demand by restricting the amount of people we allow into this state. One in and one out until we can supply water to the ones who currently reside here. Building freeze immediately in Pleasanton and the surrounding areas. This drought will go and probably soon. I was here in the 70's when we had far less people and went through years of biblical drought and even after that did not build any more water storage capacity. Let's do it this time and also let stop the flow of water back into the ocean to save a fish which is almost extinct anyway. There you have it some solutions and you did not even have to pay for it like I am sure we paid these guys. I am sure that are many more ideas but the problem with politicians is that they cannot get anything done. Maybe that is why people are excited about Trump, Carson, and Sanders and fed up with Obama, Hilliary, Boener, Pelosi, Reid, and McConnell.

8 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2015 at 5:34 pm

"Let's cap demand by restricting the amount of people we allow into this state."

"Building freeze immediately in Pleasanton and the surrounding areas."

Take a look at the actual numbers. "People" are a small part of the total water use in California. 50% of the total water is diverted to protect the environment. Of the remaining water about 75-80% goes to agriculture.

Restricting people coming in to California or freezing building in Pleasanton won't even begin to put a dent in the problem. About 10% of the goes to growing almonds, most of which are exported. Go things like that, and there is plenty left over for all of us to have green lawns and clean cars, not to mention plenty for new building and more people.

2 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 6:32 pm


There you go now I have people thinking. Who controls 70% of the pistachio market and 40% of the almonds in California and who does he donate his money to. Might take a little research. Here is a hint. They have water rights before water goes to the cities. Good luck

5 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 15, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Glad that desalination was in the discussion.

Like this comment
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 9:29 pm

Shadow Cliffs is full!

4 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2015 at 9:49 pm


Good luck with your research.

As I said, there is no need to restrict people moving into California or building and Pleasanton or anything like that. If anything, we need to have more people moving into California. It is not a water issue.

Like this comment
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 16, 2015 at 8:28 am


That an interesting observation. Our population is about the size of Canada's and we do not have enough water but you think we should have more people come in and water isn't the issue? Maybe so but I doubt it.

If in fact we did restrict the water to growers it would certainly reduce the migrant population to basically nothing. All of those Central Valley towns like Avenal, Selma, Coalinga would become ghost towns.

We need good jobs to support the influx of people coming into this state not seasonal work otherwise it is nothing more than a modern form of slavery except exploiting a different race.

6 people like this
Posted by Jill
a resident of Carlton Oaks
on Sep 16, 2015 at 8:32 am

We need to be recycling water, not desalinating. And by recycling, I mean to tap, not just to irrigation. It's less expensive than desalinating and you don't have to worry about sucking in tons of wildlife. If Orange County can do it, we can do it.

SF Chronicle story: Web Link

9 people like this
Posted by mooseturd
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Sep 16, 2015 at 9:31 am

mooseturd is a registered user.

@Jill, Thanks for that link Jill. And, I might add; the US Armed Forces do it, we built systems for Afghanistan and we might ask Israel. They know a thing or two about how to live in the desert.

Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2015 at 11:17 am

Yay Jerry! Boo BobB!

3 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 16, 2015 at 1:21 pm

At least locally, the retirement of Daniel Smith is a good thing. It's a chance for the city to hire someone who manages with a carrot rather than a stick. Also need someone who is up on 21th century technology and understands that creating a first rate online app for water conservation and water department billing is better than spending $200,000 on stupid radio announcements.As far as bringing reclaimed water to Hacienda business park and the Sports park, its about time. We are so behind the times compared to SoCal.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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