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Last Updated: Apr 17, 2014

Emergency Water Supply & Storage Project

What's Happening Now? 

Project Development Background

The City of Palo Alto currently does not have enough water to meet normal and emergency demands if the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct system shuts down.

Therefore, as part of the necessary water system improvements identified in a report prepared for the City in 1999, the City needs to construct a 2.5 million gallon underground water reservoir and pump station in Palo Alto to meet emergency water supply and storage needs. In addition to this water reservoir, the project includes the siting and construction of several emergency supply wells and the upgrade of five existing wells and the existing Mayfield Pump Station.

The City’s primary source of potable water, since 1962, has been the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct system, which has five connection points in various parts of the City. In addition to this water supply, the City maintains five water wells that have at times been used to add to the Hetch Hetchy supply in times of drought. The proposed new reservoir, like the City’s existing reservoirs, will store water for fire fighting and meeting short-term emergency demand.

Adding a new reservoir is critical to meet emergency demands in the City in the event that the Hetch Hetchy system shuts down. This recommendation is consistent with the minimum recommended level of service standards set by The California Department of Public Health (formerly the Department of Health Services) and the Council-approved Utilities’ Strategic Plan.

Utilities staff will manage the design and construction of the facilities to meet the emergency water supply needs of Palo Alto.

Historic Milestones

January 2012: The coating and seismic upgrade of six existing reservoirs and repair of three receiving stations (CMR 139:10) began. In order to preserve water system reliability, only one site will be rehabilitated at a time to ensure minimal emergency exposure risk while in construction. The contractor will begin the seismic upgrades at the Mayfield Reservoir first, in conjunction with the pump station project, with a project completion date of June 2015.

October 2011: To establish reliability in the event of a major power outage and/or shut down of the SFPUC water supply, the Utilities Department will be installing standby emergency generators at existing water facility sites. This includes pump stations and emergency water supply wells. Construction of the El Camino Park Reservoir, Pump Station and Well Project (Phase 1) activities include the demolition of the existing pump station and construction of a new underground reservoir, pump station, emergency water supply well and some hardscape. Park restoration and landscaping activities will be completed in Phase 2. Construction of Phase 1 is expected to last approximately 14 months, with anticipated completion by December 2012. Phase 2 construction groundbreaking is estimated to begin in November 2012, with expected completion in the summer of 2013.

September 2011: Construction of the Well Rehabilitation Project commenced. Activities include demolition of the existing mechanical and electrical equipment, well buildings and hardscape and construction of new mechanical and electrical equipment, utility piping and hardscape. Construction rehabilitation is expected to last approximately 5 months.

July 2011: Construction groundbreaking of the Mayfield Pump Station, with activities include demolition of the existing pump station and construction of a new pump station (CMR #1401). Construction is expected to last approximately 16 months.(Notice of Construction) The construction rehabilitation contract for the Well Rehabilitation Project (CMR 232:10) and construction contract for the El Camino Park Reservoir, Pump Station and Well Project (CMR 424:09) were awarded by City Council on August 1. Upon completion of the testing and assessment activities, rehabilitation design for each site commenced (CMR 232:10). Two new Emergency Water Supply Wells (CMR 371:09) located at Eleanor Pardee Park and the Main Library/Community Gardens were also completed. Both sites are presently on-line and available in the event of an emergency.

March 2010: In order to ensure reliable facilities during construction of the El Camino Park/Mayfield Augmentation Project and Well Rehabilitation Project, the City contracted with a consultant (URS Corporation) for Assessment, Design and Construction Management Services for Coating and Seismic Upgrades of Six Existing City Reservoirs and Rehabilitation of Three Receiving Station (CMR 139:10). Assessment and Design services began starting March 2010. Construction is not expected to begin on this project until January 2012. This project will enhance the performance reliability of existing water facilities while the larger emergency water supply and storage project (CMR 424:09) is being constructed.

February 2010: Two new Emergency Water Supply Wells (CMR 371:09) were drilled, one at Eleanor Pardee Park and the other at the Main Library/Community Gardens. Construction for this project was completed by July 2010.

December 2009: Phase 1 of the Well Rehabilitation Project was completed. This phase of work included the initial assessment of each existing five City wells. In May 2010, the City tested all five water wells for structural integrity and water yield, and prepared a design rehabilitation plan for each (CMR 232:10).

March 2007: The City Council held a public hearing to certify the adequacy of the Final EIR and authorize staff to proceed. At this meeting Council decided to place an advisory measure on the November ballot asking voters whether they approved of locating the new reservoir, pump station and well in El Camino Park.

February 14, 2007: The Planning and Transportation Commission held a second public hearing to take comments from the public on the adequacy of the Final EIR.

February 8 to March 5, 2007: The FEIR was circulated for public review and comment.

February 12, 2007: The Utilities Advisory Commission held a public meeting to review the EIR.

November 2006: The Planning and Transportation Commission held a public hearing to take comments from the public on the adequacy of the Draft EIR.

November - December 2006: The DEIR (PDF) was circulated for public review and comment during the 45-day review period.

March 8, 2006: A public scoping meeting on the DEIR for the Emergency Water Supply and Storage Project was conducted at a special Utility Advisory Commission meeting. Public comment was accepted. (Minutes from Scoping Meeting)

February 2006: The Notice of Preparation (PDF) was issued to the State of California, which formally marked the beginning of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process for the Emergency Water Supply and Storage Project.

January 2006: The City Council authorized (CMR:124:06) staff to proceed with the EIR.

March 2005: Two focus group meetings were held with invited participants from community and neighborhood groups, environmental groups and businesses. The purpose of the public involvement meetings was to elicit feedback from the community about staff’s general approach to the project and the location of potential reservoir and well sites.

November 1999: The Water Wells, Regional Storage, and Distribution System Study (1999 Study) analyzed the impact of a severe emergency on Palo Alto’s water distribution system. A large earthquake, for instance, could result in shutdown of the City’s main water supply, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) Hetch Hetchy water system, for as long as 60 days. Coupled with the need to extinguish multiple fires in the hours immediately following such an earthquake, the City’s water system would not be able to supply sufficient water to meet demands, even if extensive water conservation measures were implemented during the disaster. The study concluded that the best way to provide for basic water needs would be to implement a dual approach to augmenting the City’s existing emergency water supply by constructing and underground 2.5 million gallon reservoir with pump station; rehabilitating up to five (5) existing water wells, constructing a total of three (3) new wells, and upgrading the existing Mayfield Pump Station.

Locating Reservoir Project at El Camino Park

In November 2007, Palo Alto voters voiced their approval of an advisory measure regarding whether an area under El Camino Park should be used for an underground water storage reservoir and well to supply the City of Palo Alto with water during an emergency. The existing pump station will be replaced with modern equipment in its same location, and all existing park facilities will be fully restored upon completion of construction.

Before selecting El Camino Park, City staff considered numerous potential reservoir, pump station and well sites in Palo Alto and Stanford. In March of 2005, City staff presented an initial evaluation of the seven potential sites to representatives from the residential and business communities at focus group meetings. Using feedback from these meetings and information from City of Palo Alto Utilities staff, the City Council identified four sites for further consideration in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process: El Camino Park, Town and Country Center and two in the vicinity of Stanford Shopping Center. These sites appeared to be viable due to many factors, such as their geographical location and elevation, proximity to existing water lines, and ability to accommodate an underground reservoir and well and nearby pump station.

The El Camino Park location has several advantages compared to the other sites considered:

  • Placing the reservoir and well beneath El Camino Park will not displace or disrupt existing residences and businesses.
  • Placing the reservoir and well beneath El Camino Park eliminates the need to construct a new pump station, since the existing pump station within El Camino Park will be replaced. No additional park space will be used to replace the existing pump station.
  • In addition, construction costs will be substantially reduced since placing the reservoir near Lytton Station allows for an efficient underground connection to the existing Lytton Station building, and eliminates the need to construct long runs of underground piping between the reservoir and pump station.
  • Placing the new well and reservoir near the existing Lytton pump station building allows for replacement of its aging 1950’s-era equipment.
  • Historically, the highest producing well sites have been in north Palo Alto near San Francisquito Creek. The closer a well is to this creek, the greater the chance that the well will be high yielding. El Camino Park is closer to the creek than two of the three alternative reservoir and well sites.
  • The use of El Camino Park for the underground reservoir, well and pump station will not permanently impact current park uses, since all existing park facilities will be fully restored upon the completion of construction.
  • No parking spaces will be permanently lost due to the use of El Camino Park for the underground reservoir, well and pump station.
Last Updated: Feb 26, 2014