Regional map showing the location of East Palo Alto
East Palo Alto fronts onto the west side of the southern bout of San Francisco Bay

Key Issues

  • Need for collaboration, public outreach/education, and regional management for sustainability.
  • Lack of data to assess groundwater levels, groundwater quality, the water balance, subsidence, wells, pumping amounts and impacts
  • Potential adverse impacts of pumping on other wells, groundwater levels and storage, subsidence potential, surface water, and groundwater quality (including saltwater intrusion and contamination)


  • Collaborative Groundwater Management Planning
  • Development of a groundwater monitoring program and protocols
  • Assessment of existing conditions, definition of issues and management objectives, identification of management actions, and implementation planning

Groundwater Management Plan

City of East Palo Alto,
San Mateo County, California

The City, recognizing its need for water supply reliability, public safety and security in emergencies, and additional supplies, has embarked on groundwater development and management.
The City of East Palo Alto, located on San Francisco Bay, currently relies wholly on imported San Francisco Public Utilities Commission water for its supply. Recognizing the need for water supply reliability, public safety and security in emergencies, and additional supplies to support economic development, the City has embarked on groundwater development and management. In 2014, the City initiated a Groundwater Management Plan (GWMP) process for its service area in the southern San Mateo Plain.

The San Mateo Plain subbasin has been designated as low-priority by the California Department of Water Resources, reflecting its current low level of groundwater use. As a result, compliance with the State's recently adopted Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is not required. Nonetheless, the City's GWMP is compliant with the groundwater management planning act (AB 3030, SB 1938 and AB 359). Most importantly, it is helping to lay the foundation for future regional sustainability planning. It is also providing management and monitoring to support the City's groundwater development, which involves two wells for backup, emergency and supplemental supply purposes.

The East Palo Alto GWMP is the product of a collaborative and open stakeholder process involving three workshops and active use of the City's website to post announcements, workship summaries, and the draft GWMP. The GWMP, which was adopted in November 2015, documents the hydrologic and hydrogeologic setting, including conditions along San Francisquito Creek. The GWMP describes historical and existing groundwater conditions, including groundwater levels and flow, recharge and surface water-groundwater interactions, groundwater pumping and wells, groundwater quality and contamination sites, and the potential for saltwater intrusion and subsidence. Intensive historical pumping (prior to the importation of Hetch-Hetchy supplies) resulted in groundwater level decline, saltware intrusion and subsidence.

The GWMP recognizes the potential for adverse effects of pumping, identifies management goals and objectives, and describes management actions including continuing stakeholder involvement, collaboration for groundwater recharge and protection, and coordinated planning. Foremost among management actions is the development of a comprehensive groundwater monitoring program that addresses climate conditions, surface water flow, groundwater levels and pumping, groundwater quality, and potential subsidence. The City is initiating the monitoring program in fiscal year 2015-2016. The City also is proceeding with completion of facilities for one production well in 2016 and planning for the second well.

Photo of well head equipment in East Palo Alto
Wellhead equipment at Gloria Way Well