SAN JOSE—On Tuesday, Jan. 24, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors voted to continue its call for water use reductions of 20 percent compared to 2013 water use. While statewide and local conditions have improved significantly, the board emphasized that dry conditions could return, and the community’s water savings achievements should be continued.
Vice Chair Santos said, “Water conservation is a way of life. It’s not going to change. We’re an arid region for the rest of our lives. History will repeat itself. Like all good people, we put money in the bank for those rainy days that don’t come.”
A new resolution, which will be brought back to the board for adoption at its Jan. 31 meeting, will include a call for a continued limit on watering ornamental landscapes to no more than three days a week. It will drop the prior call for retail water agencies, local municipalities and the County of Santa Clara to implement mandatory measures, as needed, to achieve the 20 percent water use reduction target.
The water district does not have the authority to enforce mandatory water use restrictions on the customers of each local water provider. Since 2014, the board’s resolutions have instead requested that water providers implement their own mandatory water restrictions to reach the target.
By dropping the “mandatory” language now, the board expects that local water providers will not use drought surcharges or penalties to motivate customers to meet the 20 percent goal.
The board’s resolution will incorporate explicit reference to the State Water Resources Control Board’s permanently prohibited practices that waste potable water: hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes; washing automobiles with hoses not equipped with a shut-off nozzle; using non-recirculated water in a fountain or other decorative water feature; watering lawns in a manner that causes runoff, or within 48 hours after measurable precipitation; and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.
Board members expressed the need to continue the positive momentum of water conservation.
Director Tony Estremera, who made the motion to continue the 20 percent water use reduction target, said, “[We should] be very clear that we support the public maintaining all of the great behavior that they’ve adopted.”
Local water supply outlook
In 2016, Santa Clara County used 28 percent less water than was used in 2013, exceeding the board’s water use reduction target of 20 percent. This achievement, along with the water district’s groundwater replenishment program, resulted in groundwater storage ending the year in the “normal” zone for the first time since the beginning of 2014.
Local reservoir storage is currently at 161 percent of the 20-year average for January. Several reservoirs have exceeded their capacity and excess water has been flowing from their spillways. Rainfall totals exceed 200% of normal for this time of year in the wettest parts of the county.
Recent History of Board Actions on Water Supply Reductions