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Valley Water Board Chair John L. Varela statement on Governor Newsom’s decision to ease some drought restrictions

March 24, 2023
Photo from snow survey in March 2023

Following a string of atmospheric rivers in January, we expressed cautious optimism for our county’s water supply outlook for the year. As the wet weather pattern continued, our outlook improved.

Today’s announcements from Governor Gavin Newsom and the state’s leadership regarding the drought and increased water supply is welcome news in Santa Clara County.

While the governor did not declare the drought over for the entire state, he announced that Californians will no longer be asked to reduce their water use by 15%. Also, the California Dept. of Water Resources increased the amount of imported water our agency will receive this year through the State Water Project from 35% of our contract amount to 75%.

Based on these announcements, our staff plans to bring recommendations to our Board of Directors related to the existing water conservation rules for Santa Clara County.

In June of 2021, my fellow Board Members and I declared a water shortage emergency condition in Santa Clara County and called for water use reduction of 15% compared to 2019. In May 2022, our Board adopted a program to enforce restrictions on outdoor water use by residents and businesses. And in September of 2022, we voted to enforce the State of California’s ban against watering decorative lawns on commercial, industrial, and institutional properties. The state’s ban against watering decorative lawns on these properties remains in effect.

I would like to thank Governor Newsom for his leadership throughout the drought. We stand in solidarity with the governor in asking our residents to make water conservation a way of life. With climate change, we know droughts will become more frequent and more severe in the future.

I would also like to thank all our residents, businesses and farmers who took steps during the past three years to reduce their water use. Your actions made a difference in helping us navigate through some record-dry years.

Please continue to say yes to saving water and making a difference in your community.

Photo: Snow melts into the South Fork of the American River located near White Hall along Highway 50 in El Dorado County, California. Photo taken March 3, 2023. Courtesy of Fred Greaves / California Department of Water Resources.

Valley Water 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 2 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 285 acres of groundwater recharge ponds and more than 294 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.