Mountain View Combines Reservoir and Sports Complex

The City of Mountain View won the Award for Excellence in the Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation category of the 2008 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit

The City of Mountain View, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, receives the majority of its water from the Hetch Hetchy Valley, more than 250 miles away. Ensuring the availability of reliable and safe water for its residents in the event of an emergency, such as a major fire or potential disruption to the water system, became a priority for the city in 2002 as it worked to meet the ongoing challenges of emergency preparedness.

In addition to improving water supply reliability, the city also wanted to provide additional emergency water storage. Finding an appropriate facility to house the reservoir was a challenge, however, because Mountain View lacked undeveloped land. At the same time that the city was considering its options, the Mountain View Whisman School District (MVWSD) had initiated steps to begin refurbishing its athletic fields at the Graham Middle School site but did not have the funding to construct or maintain new athletic fields.

Convergence of Community Needs

Recognizing a potential partnership, in 2003 the city negotiated with the MVWSD for joint use of Graham Middle School’s sports fields. In exchange for the right to construct a buried reservoir beneath the playing fields, the city agreed to construct and maintain new athletic fields on top of the reservoir as a shared-use facility for students during the day and residents after school hours.

The Graham Reservoir and Sports Complex project integrated efficient planning and engineering to construct an 8 million-gallon reservoir on the school site and an adjacent pump station, topped by a turf-covered recreational deck. The project also incorporated a groundwater well to provide another source of water.

For operational and cost efficiency, the city separated the project into three bid packages and took advantage of the school’s summer break to expedite the project and reduce the impact on the school during construction, which began in 2004 and was completed in 2006.

Mountain View Mayor Tom Means is enthusiastic about the project. He explains, “The Graham Reservoir and Sports Complex embodies many of the core principles of good government, including community engagement, partnerships and innovative land use to meet the needs of our community.”

Project Provides Multiple Benefits

Community uses of the facility range from daily school athletic activities, summer youth programs and soccer leagues to individual runners and walkers who use the track for daily exercise. Students and residents enjoy the immediate benefits of an all-weather track and athletic fields, and the entire community is assured that the city has an adequate water supply in the event of an emergency.

“Besides the millions of gallons of water this reservoir cleverly stores for the citizens of Mountain View, it’s a joy to see how much the students of Graham Middle School happily embrace this world-class sports complex,” says MVWSD Superintendent Maurice Ghysels. “This project’s positive impact on students and staff has been tremendous. Kids go outside more, play more and are in better shape because of our collaboration with the City of Mountain View.”

“This project meets emergency water needs into the next century and provides a recreation facility of the highest quality. It demonstrates how a city and a school district can work together to get maximum use out of increasingly scarce land,” adds Cathy Lazarus, public works director for the City of Mountain View.

In addition to much positive feedback from residents, the project has received numerous honors and awards for its engineering and environmental efficiencies. The Graham Reservoir and Sports Complex offers an excellent example of innovative land use and partnerships in the construction and maintenance of public works infrastructure.

Contact: Cathy Lazarus, public works director; phone: (650) 903-6311; e-mail:

This article appears in the February 2009 issue of Western City
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