PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — Thousands of gallons of water are going down the drain in Palo Alto, and the city has no way to stop it.

The water is pumped from the ground, typically in order to build a basement, but in a time of severe drought, some neighbors call it just plain wasteful.

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“It’s a complete waste because this water could be, should be used for other purposes,” Palo Alto resident Kumar Mukherjea said.

The city’s public works department estimates that contractors at just one site could pump as much as 50,000-gallons of water out of the ground a day.

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Some of the water is collected, stored, and later used to water landscaping, but most of it just goes down the storm drain.

Public Works Assistant Director Phil Bobel says the practice isn’t as wasteful as it seems.

“This shallow ground water is moving toward our creeks, and San Francisco Bay.  So, when they pump it out and put it in the storm drain system, it’s really just a different pathway to the Bay.  It ends up in the same place.”

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The department says the city council could require contractors in the future to collect more of the water they pump from the ground.