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Santa Clara County to receive 25 percent allocation of federal water

Contact: Colleen Valles
Office: 408-630-2985
Mobile: 408-681-9265

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February 27, 2015

SAN JOSE—On Feb. 27, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that the water district’s initial agricultural allocation is at zero, and initial municipal and industrial allocation is 25 percent of historic use, amounting to 32,500 acre-feet. The district’s maximum contract allocation from the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) is 152,500 acre-feet out of an annual countywide water demand of 365,000 acre-feet.

This announcement emphasizes the scarcity of water statewide and the importance of reducing water use immediately.

This announced allocation of water from the federal system is 50 percent of last year’s allocation. An acre-foot is how much water two families of five use in one year. In January, the State Department of Water Resources announced its allocations of State Water Project (SWP) delivery at 15 percent of the district’s 100,000 acre-foot contracted amount. This equates to 15,000 acre-feet.

Sierra Nevada snowpack is only 19 percent of historical average for February 26. Much of the state’s water falls as snow in the Sierra Nevada, and the state conducts surveys to determine how much water will be available when the snow melts in spring. The state will measure again on Tuesday.

A full 40 percent of the county’s water supply is imported from Sierra Nevada watersheds runoff through these two water conveyance systems.

The result of the announcements is that imported water supplies from the CVP and SWP, will be one third of normal year imports and we need to restore 80,000 acre-feet of local groundwater reserves (equal to 20 percent of county normal water supply) that we have relied on over these past few dry years. Furthermore, the lack of rain has resulted in less water to replenish the groundwater basin.

Due to the drought, this county has relied heavily on groundwater to meet the water supply demands of the community. As a result, groundwater reserves were reduced by nearly 80,000 acre-feet in 2014, and water levels exceeded the subsidence threshold in one area of the county during the summer and fall of 2014. Currently, groundwater levels are approaching subsidence thresholds at several locations in the county, and we are increasingly concerned that permanent land subsidence and saltwater intrusion may resume. This may impact underground infrastructure, such as sanitary and storm water sewer lines, as well as flood protection and could result in tidal flooding along the Bay shoreline.

In February 2014, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution calling for mandatory measures to reach a water use reduction target equal to 20 percent of 2013 water use, through Dec. 31, 2014. In November 2014, the board extended the call for 20 percent conservation through June 30, 2015.

In 2014, the county’s water use reached a 13 percent decline from 2013 numbers. In December 2014, that level reached the 20 percent goal. However, entering a fourth straight drought year with fewer stored supplies and a dismal snowpack will require more aggressive conservation. Allocations from the CVP have not been this low for urban water agencies since the 1991 and 1977 droughts. The water district began receiving deliveries from the CVP in 1987.

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 our imported water supply and are expected to be higher later in the year. The district has been working closely with retail water agencies to maintain drinking water quality the past year and will continue to do so in 2015.

The district’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan, a component of the district’s 10-year Urban Water Management Plan, called for 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. Should the groundwater levels continue to decline there will be the need for greater conservation.

The district continues to pursue the purchase of additional water supplies, to educate the public on immediate water use reduction measures, to collaborate with municipal and private water providers and to expand the rebate program that communities will need to embrace conservation as a way of life.

Water use reduction programs and conservation tips can be found at save20gallons.org.


The Santa Clara Valley Water District manages an integrated water resources system that includes the supply of clean, safe water, flood protection and stewardship of streams on behalf of Santa Clara County's 1.8 million residents. The district effectively manages 10 dams and surface water reservoirs, three water treatment plants, an advanced recycled water purification center, a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, nearly 400 acres of groundwater recharge ponds and more than 275 miles of streams. We provide wholesale water and groundwater management services to local municipalities and private water retailers who deliver drinking water directly to homes and businesses in Santa Clara County.