This week, San Jose ended a streak of 54 consecutive days without rain, a winter record. The sprinkling of rain recorded on Feb. 22 did little to offset a dry January and February, typically two of the wettest months of the year.
The dry start to 2022 is also impacting snow levels in the Sierra Nevada, which are currently well below average for this time of year. As such, our state is facing a third consecutive year of drought. We declared an emergency last June and our current situation shows we are still in a drought emergency.
Santa Clara County largely depends on imported water, with about half our supply coming from outside the county. The announcement on Feb. 23 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that we are getting a paltry 25% of our water allocation from the federal Central Valley Project punctuates the dire water supply outlook across California.
This is in addition to the fact that we will not receive any water from the Central Valley Project for agricultural use. This 25% allocation may be further reduced if our region does not receive any additional precipitation in the coming weeks.
To better protect our water supply, my fellow board members and I set the conservation bar high in June 2021 and established a 15% water use reduction goal for Santa Clara County. Overall, residents, businesses and farmers reduced water use by 8% between June and December 2021.
We thank those who have done their part, but we need to do more. We must all make conservation a way of life. Residents and businesses can take advantage of our robust conservation programs by visiting watersavings.org.
Climate change can mean longer and more severe droughts. Conservation and investments in infrastructure and technology will help ensure enough safe, clean water for all our communities.
One solution we must embrace is increasing our county’s use of recycled and purified water, a drought-proof and locally-controlled water source. Using advanced purified water will protect our water supply from the impacts of climate change and, together with conservation, will make our future drought-proof.
Photo: Snow melts into a creek that flows into the South Fork American River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Courtesy of Kenneth James / California Department of Water Resources.