News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Subject :

City Engineer Develops Innovative Idea for Water Re-Use
Contact : Claudia Keith    (650) 329-2607
For years, City Senior Engineer Mike Nafziger had been trying to figure out a way to reuse water that is removed from residential and commercial construction projects involving basements or parking structures.  To allow for excavation, groundwater just below the surface is pumped out—a process called dewatering.  The water is then tested for contamination and pumped out to the nearest City storm drain. 

Nafziger, who oversees Public Works permitting for residential and commercial construction projects in Palo Alto, has also fielded many complaints from community members over the years who saw the water runoff and thought it wasteful—particularly in times of drought conditions like today. 

While in a routine staff meeting on storm water issues, Nafziger learned that the City street sweepers used potable water from fire hydrants to fill up their tanks.  He thought that if street sweepers could hook up to a hydrant for water, why not install a similar system in the dewatering process and use that water? 

He contacted Centerline Construction, a firm that Nafziger had worked with in the past, and who had a construction project they agreed to use to pilot the idea.  First, Nafziger tested the dewatered water to make sure it was suitable for tree watering, street sweeping and other non-potable water uses. Next, he also confirmed that the water would not damage any machinery. Finally, with the help of Centerline, Nafziger put together a working water station that tapped into the dewatering pumps and filled up the City's 2,700 gallon watering truck used for watering trees.

Within the first two days of operation, Nafziger estimates the City saved 6,000 gallons of water and says he is looking for other uses. 

"There are a number of other benefits that we could use the water for, such as dust control at construction sites," said Nafziger.  While still finalizing costs, Nafziger estimates that each water filling station will cost less than $1,000 to construct.

“We are really looking at all of the potential uses for the water, and perhaps in the future making it available for residents,” said Nafziger.  “We would also like to expand the number of available water stations so we’ve added conditions of approval that will require the construction of a water station on projects that require dewatering.  This will be a model for future dewatering operations.”

Nafziger hopes to promote the water reuse to other contractors doing work in the City and to encourage its use within other City departments such as Utilities and Fire, and potentially other local and regional agencies.