Smell The Coffee? Because The Water Smells Like “Geosmin”.

A message from Santa Clara Valley Water District:

If you have noticed an earthy smell in your tap water, we want you to know that we are aware of it and are working to correct the odor that, while unpleasant, does not pose a health concern.

The smell is affecting parts of Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Campbell, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Cupertino, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Gatos, and to a lesser extent south San Jose, and is purely aesthetic. Our water still meets or surpasses drinking water standards.

The earthy odor is caused by geosmin, a compound produced by algae that has recently bloomed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the San Luis Reservoir, where the water district gets more than half of the water it supplies to northern Santa Clara County. Geosmin is not an algal toxin, so the safety of the water is not impacted. However, the human nose is very sensitive to geosmin: some people can smell it at extremely low levels – as low as 1.3 parts per trillion (ppt). Levels up to 48 ppt have been measured in the source water and treated water.

At present, we expect the intense geosmin odor to subside in a few days as the water already in the distribution system works its way out. We have changed the source of water at our Rinconada and Santa Teresa water treatment plants to a local reservoir that has not been affected by the same odor. We are also increasing treatment at our three water treatment plants to rid our treated water of the unpleasant smell.

As we work to mitigate geosmin’s effect on our water, customers who do experience a taste or odor can chill their tap water before drinking in order to make taste and smell issues less noticeable. It is not necessary to boil water as the water is safe to drink and meets all state and federal public health standards.

The water district will strive to improve the taste and smell of the water in this unusual time. We put the highest priority on providing safe, clean water to Santa Clara County.

Learn more about taste and odor issues at

Category: Drought, Uncategorized, Water use · Tags:

These Kids Are Smiling! The Pay Off Of reCYCLE Bike Drive

If pictures tell a story, these scream happiness. The kids and staff at the staff at Theuerkauf School, recipients of some of the bikes we collected at the reCYCLE Bike Drive in May.

Thanks to the Los Altos Community Foundation for funding the drive. The bikes you deliver to GreenTown at the reCYCLE Bike Drive, to fix, clean up and send to those who could use a set of wheels are making some kids very happy.

So keep that in mind next time you’re cleaning out any unused bikes in good shape. Deliver it to us, and you’ll be delivering smiles!

IMG_0013 IMG_0018 IMG_0038 IMG_0040 IMG_0043IMG_20160602_091903

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Water Reduction Rebates Are Back!

GTLA web native plants

Native plants are an easy way to landscape beautifully while saving water.

The good news came on June 14 at the Santa Clara Valley Water District meeting.  They set a 20% target for water reduction and reinstated rebates.

At the meeting, the SCVWD lowered its water use reduction target from 30% to 20% under 2013 levels. The Board emphasized that residents should continue their efforts to conserve.

On July 1, 2016 the SCVWD will reinstate the Landscape Rebate Program and the Irrigation Equipment Upgrade Rebates. If you’d like to know more, find details here.

We have to ask why take such action? The drought continues although it was eased by last winter’s rainfall. Local reservoirs and percolation ponds are close to full, however, our groundwater levels have not recovered.

In Santa Clara County, our groundwater aquifers are our largest source of water storage. This helps us to get through dry summers and drought. After pulling 100,000 acre-feet of water from our aquifers in 2014 and 2015, we ended 2015 with 232,000 acre-feet. In drought terms, this is Stage 3: Severe. Above 300,000 is normal and before the latest drought we had 340,000-350,000 acre-feet in groundwater aquifers.

So we still urge residents to do what they can to conserve. Like attending local events such as Sherri Osaka‘s talk July 21, 7-8:30PM at the Mountain View Library.

The talk, sponsored by the California Native Plant Society entitled “Design-It-Youself: Native Plant Garden”, has a clear focus:  “You are finally ready to remove your lawn in order to save water, lower maintenance time and create habitat. But you want to create the design yourself. Come to this talk, and learn the principles of garden design. See an example of a design from start to finish. Pick up some handouts of different designs you can use and modify. And get ready to put pencil to paper!”

And look to GreenTown for more ideas flowing your way!


Celebrating Energy Savings At Los Altos H.S. Yup $86K Worth!

Sybil Cramer being interviewed for Los Altos High School’s school paper, The Talon.

The utility of the future is here.

A crowd of supporters heard those words from Richard Adams, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), at the June 8 celebration of the one year anniversary for the Battery Storage and EV Charging System on the Los Altos High School campus. “You are sitting under it,” he said, referring to the photovoltaic panels in the parking lot and pointing to the nearby charging stations and battery storage facility. “This is the look of local, distributed energy.”

Sybil Cramer led the effort to get charging and battery storage on campus. She saw an opportunity to get a system installed by Green Charge Networks, at no cost to the school district, and school officials took notice.

As Mike Mathiesen, Associate Superintendent of Business Services put it, “We are in the business of education, but we like to be on the leading edge, and if we can save money on our energy costs, we’ll do it.” And save they did, $86,000 in utility electric bills this past year!

Santa Clara-based Green Charge Networks, the largest provider of commercial energy storage in the US, was recently acquired by ENGIE, the largest independent power producer and supplier of energy efficiency in the world. Mark Triplett, COO, Green Charge Networks, said, “This battery storage pilot program was just an idea two years ago.” It has now shown that energy storage can effectively smooth variations in energy supply and demand. PG&E is watching closely. This is important as we move to more and more renewable energy content. For the schools it’s simple, it runs in the background offering inspiration while saving money. That’s a nice combination.

Thank you Sybil for making this happen!

Gary Hedden

Energy Lead, GTLA

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Ask GreenTown: “Where do I recycle electronics?”


Do you have suggestions for a local place for e-cycling?


Indeed, it’s harder and harder to find a place to recycle electronics because of changes in the market. Several options are available:

  • The easiest way is to first try Mission Trail. They’ll collect one piece of electronic waste at curbside, once every six months.  Contact them to let them know you plan to set it out and see if it affects the number of bulky item collections on your account.
  • For general resources review this:
    • Looking at the list of California approved e-waste collectors/recyclers on CalRecycle’s website. In addition to Goodwill, GreenMouse and A&J Electronics Recycling take ewaste. Both have been responsible electronics recyclers, e.g., hard drives get destroyed and most of the recycling happens in the state. But these things change so your best bet is to call them and see what they are doing now. You can find them on this list.
  • Several other local venues will take ewaste:
    • For no-charge drop off there is also the Sunnyvale SMaRT Station with a drive-through drop-off, more details here.
    • ABC Storage on Wyandotte Street in Mountain View has info here.
    • Goodwill Silicon Valley is taking e-waste according to their website
    • Hope Services in Mountain View, takes ewaste daily. Check it out here.

One question to ask any recycler is if they are working with an e-steward recycler. E-stewards is a certification program to ensure very responsible electronics recycling. There are relatively few of these recyclers but these are the ones we should strive to find. Goodwill claims that they are working with an e-steward recycler and that they destroy all hard drives.

Thanks for the very relevant question!

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Parking Your Bike In Town Never Looked So Good!

The leadership team of GreenTown Los Altos was at the ribbon cutting ceremony for unveiling of Cuppa Joe, one of six bike racks that made the cut in a design competition run by Los Altos Public Arts Commission. Kacey Fitzpatrick (closest to bike) designed the winning rack, which is located on Main Street and GreenTown Los Altos sponsored post it.

Pictured left to right are Arnold Ambiel, Mayor Jeannie Bruins, Margie Suozzo, Kacey Fitzpatrick, Gary Hedden, Linda Ziff, Jana Schlanksker, Linda Gass, Corinne Debra.



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Community Forum Yields Impressive Ideas! Thanks To YOU!

GreenTown received much good input at the community meeting that will help us create goals relevant to our community’s needs. We thank you!

Feedback and good ideas continue to flow in, following GreenTown Los Altos’ (GreenTown) Community Forum held on April 18, 2016, at the Los Altos Library.

More than 35 people attended the meeting, including Los Altos residents, local officials and small business owners. GreenTown speakers gave updates on the group’s four current program areas: Water, Waste, Watts and WoW! (active transportation modes, specifically walking and biking).

Karen (KJ) Janowski kicked things off with an intro of Margie Suozzo who delivered an overall GreenTown update ; Gary Hedden spoke about watts/energy; Barbara O’Reilly shared program updates on water; and Arnold Ambiel talked about reCYCLE bike drive progress.

Corinne DeBra who’s been surveying Los Altos residents on what they’d like to see more of in terms of future GTLA program activities helped facilitate a feedback session during the meeting. She asked attendees about environmental issues most important to them they’d like to see addressed, and about challenges and opportunities associated with these issues. Participants were also able to write down issues of their choice on post-its placed on the walls, segmented by program area, allowing all attendees to view and share ideas on the spot.

Topics during the feedback session ranged from transportation to community building.

  • Alternative modes of transportation (cutting down on automobile trips), by walking and bicycling, and taking transit were discussed, as well as barriers to doing so. Great observations included: In Manhattan, people walk for a mile or two…but I live 1/2 mile away and I don’t walk into downtown Los Altos.”
  • Attendees discussed creating a sense of community, e.g. a community garden, involving church groups, and doing more that might involve young families and/or create activities that appeal to people of all ages.

While holding community forums is a GreenTown tradition, this is an especially good time to connect with people on their top environmental and energy issues and priorities.

GreenTown is prioritizing and planning activities for 2016-2017 in four program areas: Water, Waste, Watts and WoW! (active transportation modes, specifically walking and biking). And community input is essential at these times.

And as the organization approaches its 10-year anniversary, much progress has been made; however, there’s still plenty to do. We’re looking forward to a future where water stewardship is the rule, resources being used wisely are the norm, more waste is being diverted from landfills, where bicycling isn’t just for recreation anymore, and where renewable energy will be playing a larger role in our lives and our businesses.

If you have ideas, drop us a line at

Local Women Turn Swapping Clothes Into A Party!

“Sip & Swap” “founders” Suzanne Bell, Kanesha Banyard, Michelle Sturiale sipping before the swap!

Ingenious! Recently, local divas, Suzanne Bell, Kanesha Banyard and Michelle Sturiale organized a, “Sip and Swap” event in Los Altos. What’s happens at a “Sip and Swap”?

Friends were encouraged to clean out their closets and offer up gently-used clothes that no longer serve them. Michelle hosted the event as Suzanne, a former buyer for Nordstrom, created the right “shopping” atmosphere, including a luxury rack, while Kanesha, a life coach, focused on the things that make her tick – empowering women  through fun and creative events. The organizers envision this as the start of a movement with creating community, clearing clutter, and helping the planet among their goals. To that end, they are working this summer on a guide to help others organize an equally successful “Sip and Swap”.

Think of it as a consignment club. Or shopping without abusing natural resources. Or friends with clothes-you-wouldn’t-mind-wearing benefits. Any way you look at it, it’s good for the environment and easy to pull off (no pun intended, but hey, it works).

Every one of the thirty or so attendees of the April Sip and Swap came away with something (or a bag of things) that they LOVED, including things they would never have purchased!DSC00184

Key tips for creating such a party include:

  • Create an evite which includes basic rules so your invitees know what to bring (and what NOT to bring), where to show up, you know…the stuff that can make or break an event.
  • Make a drop date, for when those attending drop their clothes so they can be organized before the big day.
  • By the time guests arrive, finger food and drinks will make it a party with goods displayed in an organized way leaving the fun to begin.

GreenTown just loves this idea! While it creates fun, it avoids creating new goods which use a wealth of resources from water to energy and avIMG_8822oids waste generated throughout the process. What’s not to love.

Sound like something you’d enjoy hosting or attending?  For more details read Suzanne’s blog here.

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Wow? Bow Wow? A Nice Rack: Yes, An Artistic Bike Rack’s In Town

After much hard work by Maddy McBirney, an artistic bike rack is now part of Los Altos’ tony streets. Striking and practical, we thank Maddy for her design work and effort and hope everyone enjoys the use of the rack for years to come!

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Creek Cleaning Catch? A Chair!


What a catch!








On Sat., May 22,  a group of 25 GreenTown Los Altos volunteers joined with thousands ofvolunteers throughout the U.S. for National River Cleanup Day. Each location gets different “surprises” as they make our waters healthier.

At Permanente Creek, Heritage Oaks Park, we removed a sodden office chair by tying a rope to it and having Mountain View Girl Scout troop 61173 form a line to haul it up.

In total, we removed 76 pounds of trash. 15 pounds of that was recycled and 2 pounds composted. A big thanks to all the volunteers.

Our next creek cleanup is scheduled for Sept. 17, 2016, National Coastal Cleanup Day. Email us at for more info as the date approaches. We hope to see you there!


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