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May 21, 2021


Paloma Ave

I was invited to attended a zoom water meeting today by our State Senator Josh Becker. I responded and asked this question, "Why are there still state mandated housing requirements, if there is not enough water for current residents?"

I hope he will answering that questions on "Water, Water, Nowhere - Innovation, Resiliency & the Drought"

Thursday, May 27th

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Please click here to RSVP

Joining me for this Panel Discussion will be:

Dr. Newsha Ajami, Director of Urban Water Policy, Stanford's Water in the West Program
Gary Kremen, Vice Chair Board of Directors, Santa Clara Valley Water District
Scott Bryan, President, Imagine H2O
Felicia Marcus, Former Chair, State Water Resources Control Board, and fellow at Stanford's Water in the West Program
To RSVP or submit a question, please click the link above. The event will livestream at sd13.senate.ca.gov.


Josh Becker

Tim Hooker

Was it someones responsibility to project water usage? What impact has the massive new development had on the water supply?


@Tim Hooker Excellent question. I believe we have a case of "many, many cooks in the kitchen". As I understand it (and I learn more every day) the projections start with historical usage, conservation effects (think low-flow shower heads) and facts like lot size, etc. They then get employment forecasts from ABAG which is a problem in and of itself. Some Department of Finance payroll and revenue numbers get mixed in. Then most cities use consultants (like EKI listed above that B'game use) and Public Works to blend it all together.

You can dive into the nitty gritty here:


But as I noted in the OP, changing regulations about land use and zoning are NOT accounted for right now--as I understand it. That was what made Sen. Scott Weiner's response about water ("Maybe we should look at that") so disturbing when he came to B'game as noted here:


Tim Hooker

thanks Joe. Is it true 2/3 of Southern CA water comes from SF area?

Just Visiting

Water is a real issue, and Burlingame needs to manage it and worry about it. But the idea that no-growthers tie it to residential use is, populism at its best. Residential water use makes up about 10% of California's total water use. And generally more than half of residential water use goes to outdoor uses (mostly, lawn irrigation and pools). Because Burlingame has smaller lots and not very many pools, the per capita water use in Burlingame is much lower than many other parts of the state (approximately 65 gpcd (gallons per capita--per person--per day), vs. upwards of 350 statewide. Per the presentation that freaked Joe out, the lowest municipality in the local water district is at about 38 gpcd. In other words, a person can healthily live on well under 65 gpcd--and well under 59--the modest planned decrease Joe mentions above for Burlingame.

Also, it's estimated that 15% of residential users are responsible for 60% of water waste in California's residential markets. So water conservation has to start with cracking down on waste.

Back to housing, because higher density housing uses significantly less water outdoors--where much of residential water use goes--it is more efficient. In other words, it will help bring that gpcd down.

Even just looking at Burlingame's water use, one can see that most of the city's water use isn't residential (the gpcd for Burlingame is about 110, whereas residential, which is included in that 110 number, is about 65; math tells us that non-residential users must use dramatically more gpcd for the gross gpcd to hit 110, if the residential is at 65).

This isn't to say that water use isn't a very big deal in California and in Burlingame. It absolutely is. But residential use--and additional higher-density housing in Burlingame--is a small part of the picture that will make very little difference even in the city's overall use.

By all means, manage water, and manage growth, but more housing isn't the big strain on water.

Barking Dog


Joni Mitchell

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

They took all the trees
Put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot


Updated version of Joni's song



It's funny how some people can't see the forest for the trees. If the per capita use (gpcd) goes down, but the overall use goes up (by the estimated 35% over the next 20 years) and the zoning changes to send the total usage even higher, then "Houston, we have a problem". Watering flora some of which feeds fauna is not "discretionary" or "wasteful".

One would have to be a development addict with some vested interest to look at the chart above and not think we have a problem that needs immediate action--much more so than sea-level rise or "affordable housing". Marin County is now looking at a pause in new water hook-ups. Their water sources are more limited than ours, but does anyone think SFPUC won't be pressured into helping Marin out if it gets really bad? Just because we are below a state-wide gpcd average doesn't mean we shouldn't be taking action. If that were the case, I can think of a dozen things being forced on us that should not be forced on us.

How about a pause on new commercial building first since that is a driver of residential demand. That is seeing the trees for the forest.


Is this event worse than the 1970's?


I was reminded of this piece from the Comicle on May 14th that I did not post last month. Herrera is moving over to the SFPUC! If we don't have a residential-commerical usage problem (@Just Visiting), then why is the city suing the state? Not much Ag in EssEff.

The city of San Francisco is reviving a long-simmering feud with the state over water, filing a lawsuit Friday that charges state regulators with trying to take away the city’s coveted Sierra Nevada water supplies.

The suit claims the state water board is demanding the city forfeit too much water from the Tuolumne River as part of a licensing deal for two dams in the faraway basin. State regulators have said the water is needed to maintain proper river flows and support struggling salmon, but city officials contend the demands would leave Bay Area residents and businesses vulnerable to water shortages.


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