Palo Alto eyes new ways to manage stormwater

Embracing the concept of green stormwater infrastructure management, the city of Palo Alto, Calif., hopes to undertake a massive effort to revamp its crumbling storm drain system. The decision will go beyond simply more pumps and collection lines to encompass an entirely different way of viewing stormwater.

Palo Alto Department of Public Works (DPW) officials worry that the current stormwater system, constructed more than 50 years ago, is unable to manage runoff from particularly large storms. To avoid flooding local streets and further pollution of the San Francisco Bay, to which all stormwater is diverted, city officials will begin harvesting runoff rather than dumping it.

Once completed, the DPW staff hopes that the project will not only improve water quality and conserve groundwater, but also will result in more green space within the city for both humans and wildlife.

To help fund the 16 proposed capital improvement projects, which officials estimate will cost about $27.2 million, only about 60 cents per month will be added to the current stormwater management fees imposed on taxpayers. If voters approve the new tax, it will take effect on June 1, 2017, when the current storm drainage program expires.

If the tax is not approved, DPW officials warn that the sharp decrease in funding “will not support current operational costs for storm-drain system maintenance and state-mandated stormwater quality protection programs, and will provide no funding for continuation of a storm-drain capital improvement program.”

The movement toward green management falls in line with other projects undertaken by the city. In 2005, local property owners approved a storm drain fee that has since funded seven crucial infrastructure projects, including a new pump station to serve the San Francisquito Creek and broader drainage improvements under major thoroughfares.

Get more information about the proposal here.

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