Santa Clara County’s Largest Water Provider Calls For Water Use Reductions

The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors took a number of actions to respond to the worsening water supply outlook. The board set a preliminary 2014 water reduction target equal to 10 percent of 2013 water use in Santa Clara County.

The target of 10 percent is based on the district’s adopted water shortage contingency plan. Governor Brown, in his Jan. 17 drought declaration, called upon water agencies to immediately activate their water shortage contingency plans.

The plan, which is part of the district’s Urban Water Management Plan, calls for the board to consider a reduction in water use of up to 10 percent when the county’s groundwater supplies are projected to drop below 300,000 acre-feet by the end of the calendar year, an amount equal to about 83 percent of a year’s water use.

The board acted in response to the serious statewide drought conditions and considering the local water supply outlook. 2013 was the driest year on record for Santa Clara County, and marks the third critically dry year.

Due to careful water management, Santa Clara County is starting off the calendar year with local groundwater in fair shape and reserves of imported water banked in Semitropic Water Storage District located near Bakersfield.

However, with so little water available in the state’s water system, some imported water allocations will likely be zero, or very limited. On average, 55 percent of the county’s water supply comes from the Sierra Nevada watershed, with 40 percent conveyed directly through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The district is expecting to face a number of operational challenges given the dry conditions. Poor water quality in the Delta and in San Luis Reservoir is also expected to affect treatment plant operations. Locally, several creeks are drying as water levels in local reservoirs have dropped to 54 percent of the 20-year average. Staff is coordinating closely with fishery agencies to manage these limited surface water supplies.

In addition to the preliminary water reduction target, the board authorized the district’s chief executive to spend $500,000 to augment the agency’s water conservation programs and related public outreach. The district will work with local cities and retail water agencies to intensify conservation and outreach programs.

The board also directed staff to evaluate establishing an ad hoc water conservation committee consisting of three of its seven members, to review the water conservation needs on a more frequent basis and to consider greater measures to promote and incentivize water use reductions.

The chief executive officer was also authorized to take and initiate local, state and federal legislative and administrative positions and pursue funding opportunities for water supply projects which will accelerate the adoption of direct potable reuse of recycled waste water and enhance water supply reliability in support of the governor’s drought declaration.

Programs and conservations tips can be found on our Water Conservation web pages, and at save20gallons.org.

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Chris Lundeen

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