Contact: Colleen Valles
March 25, 2015
SAN JOSE—Facing worsening drought conditions and water supply projections, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors called for a water use reduction target of 30 percent and a restriction on irrigating outdoor landscapes and lawns with potable water to two days per week.
The call came at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, and is a response to the continued severity of the drought. The board received an update on water supply conditions which are heavily reliant upon water supplies imported from outside the county. Local reservoirs are about half full. Groundwater levels are 30 to 40 feet lower than average, reflecting the greater use of groundwater in 2014 and starting the year at a greater deficit in groundwater supplies than last year. The northern California Sierra snowpack, which is a key factor in the availability of imported water supplies, is only around 10 percent of normal.
Santa Clara County’s groundwater basins are the largest local “reservoir” of water, and the water district works aggressively to protect these resources. With less water available to replenish groundwater basins in Santa Clara Valley, the increase in conservation is critical. Decreasing demand by cutting water usage will help protect groundwater storage and lessen the risk of subsidence.
Subsidence is the sinking of the surface of the land that occurs if too much water is drawn from the aquifer beneath it. Subsidence can damage canals, levees, roadways, or sewer and storm water systems, and can also lead to flooding and to salt water entering the aquifers. The water district closely monitors groundwater conditions, and found that groundwater levels approached subsidence thresholds in several monitoring wells in 2014.
Since February 2014, the district has had a standing call for 20 percent water use reductions over 2013 usage levels, and between February and December 2014, water use was reduced by 13 percent. The board hopes the call for a 30 percent reduction, as well as the limits on watering, drive home the significance of the drought and spur even more cooperation from local water providers as well as residents and businesses.
The water district, as a water wholesaler for most of Santa Clara County, calls for local water providers, including municipal water utilities and investor-owned utilities, to implement whatever mandatory measures are necessary to reach the 30 percent target in their service area. The district will encourage local water providers to adopt specific water use restrictions that are as consistent as possible, throughout the county.
Timothy S. Guster, vice president and general counsel for Great Oaks Water Company, said, “Great Oaks Water Company joins with the State Water Board and the Santa Clara Valley Water District in calling for a reduction in outdoor watering of lawns and landscapes to no more than two days per week. Beginning immediately, Great Oaks is including 2013 water use information on our customers’ bills, along with their percentage reduction in water use, so they can see for themselves if they are meeting the District’s goal of a 30% reduction.”
The efforts of those who have conserved have not gone unnoticed. The board recognized two new Water Saving Heroes, Cinnabar Hills Golf Club and The Villages, at the meeting Tuesday night, and has a program to commend those who have done a good job of saving water since the district board called for 20 percent reductions in water use in February 2014.
The district offers assistance to those looking to make more changes to save water, through a variety of rebates for homes and businesses.
Over the past year, the water district has taken aggressive actions and invested approximately $25 million to respond to the drought, including increasing water conservation rebates, expanding drought awareness outreach, hiring water waste inspectors, improving recharge ponds and other facilities to boost performance, and improving water use efficiency at its own facilities. Last night, the board also voted to extend increased water conservation rebates another six months, until the end of 2015.
The district is also pursuing other measures to deal with the drought, including purchasing additional water from outside our region, bringing back water the district has stored in an underground aquifer near Bakersfield, and expanding local drought-proof supplies of recycled and purified water that could be used for potable use.
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.