Following two of the driest months on record, the miracle March we’d hoped for never happened. The end of the winter season remained dry with minimal snow falling in the Sierra Nevada and just .35 inches of rain falling in San Jose during March.
The April 1 snowpack survey in the Sierra Nevada measured at 38% of average. This is a grim indication that our current severe drought will likely worsen in the drier spring and summer months.
The rainfall during January, February and March is critical to our water supply. With just .36 inches of rain combined in 2022, it is the driest start to a calendar year on record. In comparison, our average rainfall during the first three months of a typical year is about 7.45 inches. As a result, we are in a third straight year of drought, with these dry conditions severely impacting our water supplies.
Also on April 1, we learned that our water allocation from the Federal Government’s Central Valley Project was reduced from 25%. Due to the extremely dry conditions this year, the Central Valley Project is no longer able to provide a set water allocation but will work with Valley Water to meet our county’s minimum public health and safety needs. This announcement comes on the heels of the State Water Project changing its water allocation to Valley Water from 15% to 5%.
Considering that Santa Clara County receives more than half of its water supply from outside the county, Valley Water has been taking action to protect our groundwater basins. We are purchasing emergency water and working to withdraw previously banked supplies. Also, the need to conserve water has never been more critical.
Our Board of Directors knows that we must be proactive to combat this drought emergency. That’s why we continue to mandate a 15% reduction in water use compared to 2019. As we approach the spring and summer months, my fellow board members and I may consider other measures to increase conservation in the county.
We believe conservation must be a way of life in Santa Clara County. Please do your part and reduce your outdoor watering. Residents and businesses can take advantage of our robust conservation programs by visiting watersavings.org.
As we face climate change and more severe droughts, Valley Water is investing in our water infrastructure to ensure a reliable water supply for generations to come. That includes upgrading and maintaining our pipelines and water treatment plants, evaluating new water storage projects, and expediting the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project.
Valley Water is also expanding its water reuse efforts through recycled water technology that can provide millions of gallons per day of high-quality water for drinking and non-drinking purposes. Our goal is to develop recycled and purified water to provide at least 10% of the county’s water demands. 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: On April 1, 2022, very little snow remains on the ground for the California Department of Water Resources' fourth snow survey of the 2022 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Photo courtesy of Ken James / California Department of Water Resources.