News Details

Water & Drought Update - Palo Alto Water Use Guidelines

Jump to:
Santa Clara County Info
Palo Alto's Water 
Easy Ways to Save
Free Water & Energy Efficiency Workshops
Recycled Water & Other Alternative Water Sources
About Your Palo Alto Water Supply 
Additional News & Items of Interest 
Water Quality in Palo Alto
Sign up for our eNewsletters for updates

Drought Update

April 7, 2017:  Governor Brown declared an end to the drought emergency in California. Water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful watering practices remain in effect. 

The City of Palo Alto enforces permanent water use restrictions on wasteful practices such as leaks, runoff, irrigating during and immediately after rainfall, and use of potable water when non-potable water is available. Read about the City's guidelines and efficiency resources below. 

Current Water Use Restrictions

  • Flooding or runoff is prohibited.
  • A shut-off valve is required for hoses used to wash vehicles, buildings, etc.
  • Potable water for construction uses is prohibited if non-potable water is available.
  • Broken or defective plumbing and irrigation systems must be repaired or replaced within a reasonable period.
  • Turf and ornamental landscape* irrigation is not allowed between 10 am and 6 pm, except for hand watering with a bucket or a hose with a shut-off valve.
  • Water in fountains or other decorative water feature must be recirculated.
  • Potable water for street sweepers/washers is prohibited if non-potable water is available.
  • Commercial car washes must use recycled water systems if economically feasible.
  • Applying water to driveways and sidewalks is prohibited, except where necessary to address an immediate health and safety need or to comply with a term or condition in a permit issued by a state or federal agency.
  • Irrigating outdoors is prohibited during and within 48 hours after a measurable rainfall.
  • Restaurants and other food service operations shall serve water to customers only upon request.
  • Hotels and motels shall provide guests with the option of choosing not to have towels and linens laundered daily.
  • Irrigation of ornamental turf on public street medians is prohibited.
  • Landscape irrigation for new development must comply with state and local building codes.

*“Ornamental landscape” refers to landscaping for purely decorative purposes, to be distinguished from edible gardens or landscapes that provide a function beyond aesthetics.

enforcement of the water use restrictions: 

The City will notify customers when incidents of these water use restrictions are observed. This may be through use of a door hanger, email, phone call or letter. Violations are subject to fines and potential use of a flow restrictor on the water service.

Santa Clara County:
The Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) is the water wholesaler to most cities and water retailers in Santa Clara County. While Palo Alto receives water from a different water supplier, the SFPUC, we work closely with SCVWD on conservation programs. The SCVWD has been asking its water retailers to reduce water use by 20%. View this Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) Monthly Water Tracker Report for updates on water use and savings achieved county-wide and for individual water retailers.

Check out SCVWD's new
landscape water calculator!

Palo Alto's Water:  Palo Alto's water is supplied by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) through the Hetch-Hetchy reservoir and distribution system. Learn more on our
water resources page.

Easy Ways To Save Water and Cut Costs

  • Contact our partners in water conservation, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, at (408) 630-2554 for free water-saving devices such as showerheads, shower timers and faucet aerators.
  • Check for and fix leaks---indoors and out. View our easy steps with this short video.
  • Need to Report A Leak, Runoff or Waste?
    • Use the free PaloAlto311 App on your smartphone or web application to report water waste. It's easy and allows us to track reports and follow up with you.
    • Call (650) 496-6968 or email - or -
    • Call Utilities Emergency Dispatch at (650) 329-2579.


 More About Your Palo Alto Water Supply

Additional News and Items Of Interest

  • Join us for the Great Race for Saving Water 5-K Fun Run & Walk & Earth Day Festival! April 22, 2017 - A celebration of Earth Day including activities, art, live music, prizes, zoo animals, bike tours, bird walks, food and fun for the whole family. The day starts off at the Palo Alto Baylands Athletic Center with the family-friendly Great Race for Saving Water, a fun 5k race and walk-a-thon for water conservation. Don't miss your chance to chase the "running toilet!"
  • Water Utility of the Year Award - Palo Alto Utilities Won the 2014 Silicon Valley Water Conservation Award for our outstanding programs and leadership which have advanced water conservation in Silicon Valley. We couldn't have done it without you! Get the full scoop, including photo of headlining comedian Will Durst.

Now Playing! Very short videos to raise your water IQ:

(Tuolumne river photo courtesy of Catherine Elvert, Utilities Communications Manager)