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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Political posturing about water

Uploaded: Jul 22, 2014
Former Pleasanton City Councilmen Matt Sullivan and Tom Pico wrote an opinion piece in the Pleasanton Weekly last week that engaged in some rhetoric that I thought had passed.
Bemoaning the city's court-ordered rezoning for more apartments, they questioned whether Pleasanton had moved beyond the point of a sustainable water supply. One paragraph read, "Discussions have started again about injecting treated sewer-water into the ground water basin. Are you ready to drink treated sewage water?"
Left unsaid is that you are drinking treated sewage water daily when the Livermore Valley's water wholesale agency, Zone 7, imports water from the San Joaquin Delta. The water is pumped out of the south Delta near Tracy and flows into the valley through the South Bay Aqueduct.
What cities are upstream and dump treated effluent into the rivers that flow through the Delta? Try the city of Stockton (population 301,000), Tracy-Lathrop-Manteca-Mountain House (150,000) and the Sacramento area (1.4 million). All of these communities have treatment plants that send the treated effluent downstream where it is a portion of the water that Zone 7 imports into the valley.
Of course, the agency treats the water before distributing it to the cities that serve residents and businesses.
As Pleasanton city operations director Daniel Smith told a group of Presbyterian men Monday morning, if you have been drinking water, you have been drinking diluted treated sewage effluent.
The Pico-Sullivan ploy is simply a political cheap shot, particularly considering that the state is in a deep three-year drought that has emphasized the importance of using resources wisely. As Smith said Monday, Pleasanton is very, very late to embrace recycled water. That contrasts sharply with both Livermore and the Dublin San Ramon Services District as well as Zone 7, which built and operates a reverse osmosis treatment plant to manage salts in the ground water (treated effluent has more salts than the Delta-conveyed water).
Pico and Sullivan both served for years on the City Council, yet did not advance an aggressive recycling program, despite the Val Vista Park being next to the Dublin San Ramon Services District treatment plant. The city put a pipeline in last year and now the park is the greenest and most sustainable in the city.
Recycled water is routine in many developed areas of the world—for instance, Hong Kong—and the technology is well-proven. Orange County has operated a treatment plant to replenish groundwater for many years with no adverse effects.
Pretending that our drinking water is pure Sierra snow melt is both misleading and a political stunt. That may be true for San Francisco and the water that is damned up at Hetch Hetchy, but it is not the case for communities served by the State Water Project.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Tom F, a resident of Castlewood,
on Jul 22, 2014 at 10:07 am

This is why I only drink beer.

Posted by highdiver, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jul 22, 2014 at 4:45 pm

The article failed to mention East Bay Mud customers have no restrictions at all, supposedly they planned for a drought. Hopefully they cut back anyways. The other comment in the article was that Presbyterian men were told if you drink water you have been drinking diluted treated sewage effluent. Not sure the religious connotation was necessary since the comment affects everyone. However, I would like a clarification from the city if the quote is true

Posted by Just Me, a resident of Lemoine Ranch,
on Jul 24, 2014 at 12:31 am

Tim Hunt: You don't seem to have understood my earlier question about your advocacy of tough new water restrictions to combat this drought--the discussion has been sidetracked into who is/is not a member of this country club or that country club, etc.

That is not the question.

The question: Yes or no, do you support letting golf courses go brown in order to save water?

Or are golf courses sacrosanct for some reason?

You haven't answered this question. Claiming that "buffalo grass" in the rough areas of the golf course will save 25% of a golf course's water use does not pass the "smell test".

Posted by john, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jul 25, 2014 at 7:46 pm

"The Pico-Sullivan ploy is simply a political cheap shot, particularly considering that the state is in a deep three-year drought that has emphasized the importance of using resources wisely."

Thank you so much for pointing that out. I couldn't agree more.

Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jul 28, 2014 at 11:24 am

highdiver...We here in San Ramon have voluntarily, at the request of EBMUD, restricted our water usage some 10-20% if I am not mistaken since the beginning of summer. It seems ok to date, but I can't speak for the REST of the summer of August and some of September! We have been blessed with pretty great drinking water to date, then again? Our water rates have increased YEARLY since 1995. Can't speak to Pleasanton's as Zone 7 is another "breed" of water company it appears. El Nino forthcoming is NOT expected to provide reasonable rainfall (-they say? It's all going to be in Southern California...) So we're nervous for sure.

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jul 28, 2014 at 12:17 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.


The Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) recycles wastewater (euphemism for sewage) for use in landscaping. It is not injected into groundwater or used as potable water. This was a hot political issue a few years ago. Candidates who promised not to do were elected to the Board. So nobody is drinking treated sewage here.

Zone 7 gets its water from the Delta, which isn't the optimum source, and treats it to a safe drinking level. This is the "potable" water distributed in Dublin and Dougherty Valley. In reality the recycled water is probably cleaner than the Delta water, but both are considered safe to drink.


Posted by sknywench, a resident of Amador Valley High School,
on Jul 28, 2014 at 2:07 pm

sknywench is a registered user.

Mr. Hunt is correct and makes rational points. Unfortunately the Pico-Sullivan article is emotional soundbytes and both of them know it. The first step is constructing the "purple pipes" connections to use recycled water for irrigation in the business park, and sports parks. The City is working on that now. The old "toilet to tap" was used ten years ago by no-growthers to scare people and unfortunately stopped anymore planning and funding for the purple pipes, although Livermore and Dublin smartly decided to go plan for the future so its residents would not be subject to what Pleasanton is now facing. As Mr. Hunt points out, and ask ANY one who is actually educated in the field of water infrastructure and supply, and they will tell you that secondary effluent in pumped into the Delta upstream and constantly drawn in by various jurisdictions downstream and treated to be potable. An injection of this treated water into the aquifer for additional natural filtering adds another measure of cleaning. Mr.Pico and Sullivan cant help continuing to play their political games so they feel important from the sidelines. We need to seriously address the future of enviable population growth (like it or not) and continuing droughts by using the same water treatment and recycling used successfully by many California communities already.

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