Who we are
Founded in 1929, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, now known as Valley Water, provides safe, clean water; flood protection; and stewardship of streams. (District organization chart)
Value of water
Water is life: Most of the human body consists of water, and we need water to maintain the normal functioning of our bodies and minds. Clean, safe water is imperative not just to human health but also to the health of the environment. Clean, flowing water promotes healthy ecosystems, enhancing the natural beauty of Santa Clara County and the quality of life of our residents and visitors.
Water and the economy: A reliable supply of clean, safe water sustains a thriving economy. A 2013 study estimated that water shortages of 10-30 percent would result in a decrease in economic activity of $883 million to more than $10 billion in Santa Clara County alone.
Water is a bargain: At less than half a penny a gallon, tap water is a bargain. One person uses, on average, 75 gallons of water a day in Silicon Valley for everything from drinking to bathing – less than $1 worth of water. Replacing those gallons of tap water with bottled water would cost about $75 a day. That’s more than $27,000 a year.
Imported water: Snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada travels hundreds of miles through rivers, into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and then to Santa Clara County treatment plants or groundwater basins, where it accounts for half the water we use here. Contracts with the state and federal government determine how much “imported” Sierra Nevada water we receive each year.
Groundwater: Santa Clara County’s largest reservoir is beneath our feet. Our groundwater basins hold more water than our 10 surface reservoirs combined. As the groundwater management agency for Santa Clara County, Valley Water actively manages our groundwater basins, replenishing them with local and imported water through our percolation ponds and stream beds.
If water is pumped out of the ground faster than it is replaced, the result can be the sinking of the land elevation. Called subsidence, this can have costly effects on infrastructure and water quality. Maintaining our groundwater levels is critical for ensuring a reliable water supply, storing water for use during droughts and shortages, and preventing subsidence.
Purified water: Purifying recycled water provides a drought-proof, locally controlled water supply that will help us meet the needs of Silicon Valley now and into the future. The Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center, the largest purification facility in Northern California, purifies recycled water to near-distilled quality using proven technology—microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection.
The result is 8 million gallons a day of highly purified water that meets California’s strict drinking water quality standards. purewaterSV.org
Conservation: Water conservation is an essential component in providing a reliable water supply to current and future generations. Our long-term water supply plan calls for annual water savings of more than 32 billion gallons per year by 2030. Since the late 1980s, the population of Santa Clara County has increased by roughly 25 percent, yet water use over that time has remained relatively flat.
Dams/Reservoirs: Santa Clara County’s 10 reservoirs hold enough water for 340,000 families of five for one year. They catch storm runoff that otherwise would flow into San Francisco Bay.
Water treatment plants: Valley Water operates three water treatment plants that clean and disinfect imported water and water from four of our local reservoirs. The three water treatment plants can produce as much as 220 million gallons of drinking water a day.
Water quality laboratory: Ensuring all of our water supplies are safe and clean is our highest priority, and we continuously test our water quality in Santa Clara County to do so. The water district’s state-of-the-art water quality lab performed nearly 175,000 tests in 2014.
We test water produced from each of our three water treatment plants, our Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center, our reservoirs and groundwater basins. Our treated water consistently meets or is better than all applicable water quality regulatory standards, and these standards are becoming increasingly stringent as technology is developed to detect contaminants at very minute levels.
Watersheds: Flood protection and stream stewardship
Flood protection projects: The water district manages about 275 miles of creeks in Santa Clara County. To provide flood protection to the county’s growing community, we build projects such as the Guadalupe River and Lower Silver Creek flood protection projects and manage our flood protection infrastructure. Our projects have protected nearly 100,000 parcels, and we have 18 projects to protect 25,000 more over the next 5 years.
Stream maintenance: Each year, water district crews can be seen out in our creeks working to remove sediment, stabilize banks and remove vegetation. This work is critical for maintaining our waterways and preparing for the rainy season. Controlling sediment in streams ensures flood protection projects continue to provide maximum flood protection.
Sandbags: You can download a map with a listing of sandbag sites by visiting the sandbag distribution location page.
Healthy creeks and ecosystems: Approximately 1/3 of the more than 800 miles of creeks and rivers in Santa Clara County are owned by the water district.
The health of a creek reflects the conditions throughout the watershed, not just those along its banks. The water district's environmental work protects and restores habitats and encourages the return of endangered species such as the red-legged frog, steelhead trout and salt marsh harvest mouse.
The water district also partners with cities and the county to provide open space and recreational opportunities at many of its 10 reservoirs and along creeks throughout the county. Since 2000, public access to more than 70 miles of new creekside trails has been made available in the county.