Overview of Climate Change
Earth's climate is changing, posing one of the most significant threats to our water resources. Increasing air and water temperatures, altered hydrology and/or rainfall patterns and rising sea levels will all affect our region and its water resources, resulting in more severe droughts or floods or both. In addition, rising sea levels would put our bay front communities at greater risk. Climate change impacts everyone and we can make a real difference by working together with our customers, partners and the community.
The reality of climate change for the district potentially includes:
- Rising sea levels - not to mention a major earthquake or heavy seasonal flooding - threaten a catastrophic failure of the Sacramento - San Joaquin Delta levee system, through which, about half of our annual water supply passes.
- Another predicted result of climate change in California is the loss of 85% of the Sierra snowpack by 2100. Earlier snowmelts and increased springtime precipitation caused by climate change are predicted to produce unseasonable runoff that becomes less and less available for exports to, among other places, Santa Clara County.
- Unprecedented long-lasting droughts that leave our largest reservoirs dry are also anticipated.
- Locally, as temperatures increase and precipitation changes endangered natural habitat, fisheries, and plant and animal species may suffer further decline or disappear.
- The effects of climate change expand beyond water supply concerns. Our flood protection structures may not be able to handle future flows as rising tides overwhelm levees in the South Bay.
The above scenarios represent the reality of climate change over the next several decades and present water resource managers with significant challenges that will be very difficult and very expensive to overcome.
Addressing climate change
The water district is addressing climate change issues at both the state and national level. Our partnership with Sustainable Silicon Valley's CO2 Initiative is a key strategy to respond to climate change resulting from the accumulation of human-generated greenhouse gases like CO2 in Santa Clara County. We are taking action right now by changing the way we manage energy usage and optimizing our operations so that they are energy efficient. In addition, our water conservation programs have resulted in some of the biggest energy savings of any programs in the county.
- Check the Climate Change Portal for reports and other technical literature on the subject of climate change and how it could affect the work that Santa Clara Valley Water District does providing stream stewardship, wholesale water supply and flood protection for Santa Clara County.
Our long-term water supply planning processes incorporated the uncertainties associated with a changing climate almost a decade ago. As more information becomes known, we refine our projections and update our analyses. We are working with others to understand the realities we will face in the future. As we move forward the water district strives to become a well-managed agency that is able to adapt quickly to change and respond effectively to the water resource implications of climate change. Climate change is also being addressed in our watershed and flood control planning processes and as part of our preparation of environmental documentation for projects.