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Worsening water supply conditions prompt call for 20 percent water reduction target

Contact: Marty Grimes
Office: 408-630-2881
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Drought Watch 2014
information page

Date: February 25, 2014

SAN JOSE – In consideration of the worsening water supply outlook for Santa Clara County, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night calling for mandatory measures to reach a water use reduction target equal to 20 percent of 2013 water use, through Dec. 31, 2014.

Retail water agencies, local municipalities and the county of Santa Clara are recommended to implement mandatory measures as needed to achieve the 20 percent water use reduction target.

Residents and businesses can expect over the next few weeks for their local water provider or municipality to begin implementing measures to reach the 20 percent target. The water district, as a wholesale provider, relies on retailer water agencies, local municipalities and the county to enact and implement local ordinances and water use reduction measures.

In addition, the board of directors voted to establish a Board of Directors’ Ad Hoc Water Conservation Committee to discuss the implementation of actions to achieve the district’s water use reduction targets. Board Chair Tony Estremera and directors Richard Santos and Brian Schmidt were appointed to the committee.

On Jan. 28, the water district board set a preliminary water use reduction target equal to 10 percent of 2013 county-wide water use, based on the district’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan. Since that time, water supply conditions have not improved, and the extent of water supply and operational challenges is becoming clearer.

Due to continued dry local weather conditions, local reservoir levels remain very low, at only 33 percent of capacity. Furthermore, the lack of rain has resulted in less water naturally replenishing the groundwater basin.

The most significant change since late January, however, is the announced allocations of imported water from the state and federal water projects. On Jan. 31, the state Department of Water Resources reduced its initial allocation from 5 percent of the district’s contract amount to zero. This impacts the district’s ability to transfer water that has been stored underground near Bakersfield.

On Feb. 21, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that the water district’s agricultural allocation is at zero, and the municipal and industrial allocation is 50 percent of historic use, which the district expects to amount to 65,000 acre-feet. The district’s maximum contract allocation from the federal Central Valley Project is 152,500 acre-feet out of an annual water demand of 365,000 acre-feet.

A priority of the district is continued delivery of safe, clean water from its treatment plants. With little local reservoir storage, the district’s three treatment plants will depend largely on limited supplies of imported water. Imported water typically provides more than 85 percent of the supply for the water district’s three water treatment plants, and in dry and critically dry years when local surface water is limited, up to 99 percent of treated drinking water is from imported water sources. With less fresh water flowing through the Delta, salinity levels have increased in this imported water supply and are expected to be higher through the year. The district is working with retail water agencies to maintain drinking water quality.

Algae blooms often grow, especially during the warm summer months, in the Delta and in San Luis Reservoir. Algae cause taste and odor issues in drinking water, but can be minimized through additional treatment.

Also, to ensure that the supply is available for the treatment plants, the district has begun augmenting storage in Anderson Reservoir with imported water. This action will help ensure that there is sufficient water to supply treatment plants through the year.

The board’s call for a 20 percent mandatory water use reduction is consistent with the district’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan, a component of the district’s 10-year Urban Water Management Plan. The plan calls for the board to consider a reduction in water use of up to 20 percent when the county’s groundwater supplies are projected to drop below 250,000 acre-feet by the end of the calendar year. Currently, the district projects that groundwater storage will drop to 205,300 acre-feet by year’s end, unless the community reaches the 20 percent short-term water reduction target.

Local reservoirs have dropped to 49 percent of their 20-year average. Reservoir releases to creeks and percolation ponds for groundwater replenishment have been minimized. In order to conserve the limited supplies of imported water needed for the treatment plants, nearly all releases of imported water to creeks and groundwater recharge ponds were discontinued at the end of January, with the exception of releases to Madrone Channel in the South County and upper Coyote Creek.

As groundwater recharge ponds and creeks begin to dry, the district expects resident fish populations to be impacted. Reducing groundwater recharge operations also accelerates the rate at which groundwater supplies are depleted.

Programs and conservations tips can be found on our Water Conservation web pages, and at

Below is the text of the Board resolution:


WHEREAS, in California, water is a precious and limited resource that must be used wisely; and

WHEREAS, calendar year 2013 was the driest year on record and 2014 is projected to be critically dry as well; and

WHEREAS, on January 17, 2014, Governor Brown proclaimed a Drought State of Emergency, calling on local urban water suppliers and municipalities to implement their local water shortage contingency plans immediately and calling on all Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent; and

WHEREAS, Santa Clara County relies on water supply imported by the State Water Project and Central Valley Project to provide treated drinking water, replenish the local groundwater basin and prevent the return of historic overdraft and land surface subsidence that could damage Bay-front levees and other critical infrastructure in northern Santa Clara County; and

WHEREAS, in 2014, State Water Project allocations have been reduced to zero percent of contract quantity, Central Valley Project water allocations for agricultural use are also at zero percent, and Central Valley Project water allocations for municipal and industrial uses are 50 percent of historic use to support public health and safety; and

WHEREAS, a priority of the Santa Clara Valley Water District (District) is continued delivery of safe, clean drinking water from its treatment plants, and the lack of precipitation and depleted storage in State and federal reservoirs has caused poor water quality conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and low storage levels in San Luis Reservoir that may limit or interrupt treatment plant supplies; and

WHEREAS, local watershed runoff has been extremely low this winter, and the District’s ability to augment reservoir storage with imported water is limited because of California Department of Water Resources Division of Dam Safety requirements; and

WHEREAS, through careful water management, Santa Clara County groundwater reserves at the start of 2014 were well within the normal range, but these reserves are projected to drop significantly by the end of 2014; and

WHEREAS, the District must maintain sufficient local surface and groundwater reserve supplies to cope with supply interruptions from natural disasters and catastrophic events such as earthquake; and

WHEREAS, the District's Urban Water Management Plan, Water Shortage Contingency Plan guides the District's water supply management actions for supply augmentation, increased water use reduction measures, and the use of local reserve supplies; and

WHEREAS, the District through coordination with retail water agencies, local municipalities and the County of Santa Clara is increasing public outreach and education to create greater awareness of countywide water supply challenges and need for efficient water use; and

WHEREAS, the District must rely on the actions of the retail water agencies, local municipalities and the County of Santa Clara to enact and implement local ordinances and water use reduction measures; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Directors of the Santa Clara Valley Water District that a water use reduction target equal to 20 percent of 2013 water use is called for through December 31, 2014, and it is further recommended that retail water agencies, local municipalities and the County of Santa Clara implement mandatory measures as needed to achieve the 20 percent water use reduction target.