This project reduces pollutants in streams, reservoirs and groundwater of Santa Clara County by supporting surface water quality pollution prevention activities. These programs address water quality concerns currently identified by local and state regulatory agencies, as well as contaminants of emerging concern. Initiatives under this project are consistent with the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) impaired water bodies designation and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), which are the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still safely meet water quality standards. Under this project, Valley Water studies and implements methods to reduce methylmercury formation in reservoirs, and helps create and carry out realistic plans to reduce contaminants, such as nutrients, bacteria, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and others, in local creeks and reservoirs.
This project addresses both greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and climate change adaptation, as reservoirs are a major source of GHG emissions (i.e. methane) during low oxygen conditions. Oxygenation is the current mechanism to control mercury in fish and may reduce methane emissions. Oxygenation can also reduce the formation of harmful algal blooms, which may become more frequent with warmer temperatures.
See Environmental & Community Benefits section for complete description of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
KPI #1: (Reduce methylmercury)
- Valley Water redeployed hypolimnetic oxygenation systems (HOSs) at Almaden Reservoir and Calero Reservoir in May 2022. Valley Water did not operate oxygenation systems at Guadalupe or Stevens Creek reservoirs due to low water levels and concerns for maintaining downstream fish habitat. Oxygenation can increase the temperature of reservoir releases, particularly when storage volume is low. To maintain cold water releases for as long as possible, Valley Water decided to delay oxygenation until drought conditions improve.
- Valley Water conducted modelling to investigate if the oxygenation systems could be operated while meeting downstream temperature goals. Based on modeling results, Valley Water decrease the flow rate of the Almaden Reservoir HOS in summer 2022 to meet the goals of oxygenation while minimizing the warming of reservoir outflow.
- Valley Water completed monthly water quality monitoring at Almaden, Guadalupe, Calero and Stevens Creek reservoirs, and quarterly monitoring at Almaden Lake.
- In December 2021, Valley Water entered into a collaborative agreement with the University of California, Santa Cruz, to study local atmospheric mercury deposition near the New Almaden Mining District using lichens as bioindicators. The first round of field data collection was completed in spring 2022. Sample analysis and reporting are underway and a technical report is expected in FY23.
- In June 2022, Valley Water entered into a collaborative agreement with University of California, Merced to study the use of adsorbent materials for mercury remediation in reservoirs. The research team is currently designing preliminary bench experiments to evaluate and rank different adsorbent materials based on cost, effectiveness, and sustainability. Following this evaluation, priority adsorbents will be used to expermimentally evaluate several application methods. Results will inform potential implementation actions in Guadalupe Reservoir.
- Valley Water coordinated with project partners (County of Santa Clara, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, and Guadalupe Rubbish Disposal Company) and the RWQCB to continue implementation of the second 5-year phase of the Coordinated Monitoring Program for the Guadalupe River Watershed Mercury TMDL project. See documents in the Reports & Documents section of this webpage. For more information on the TMDL project, please see here. Stream fish monitoring scheduled for summer 2021 was delayed after four of the six approved monitoring stations were found to be dry or with water temperature exceeding permit thresholds. Fish monitoring will resume when drought conditions improve.
KPI #2: (Prioritization plan)
- The Prioritization and Implementation of Pollution Prevention and Reduction Activities Plan to Address Impaired Water Bodies in Santa Clara County (Prioritization Plan) is periodically reviewed following the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board’s (Water Board) Triennial Review of the Basin Plan, which sets priorities for projects to address various impairment types. Valley Water uses the Water Board’s Triennial Review and its list of impaired water bodies to evaluate potential projects in water bodies within our jurisdiction. The Water Board completed the Triennial Review in November 2021 and Valley Water will begin updating the prioritization plan in summer 2022. Since Water Board priorities change over time as impairments are addressed and new problems are identified, the Prioritization Plan is a living document that is updated according to changing Water Board priorities.
KPI #3: (Surface water quality improvement activities)
- Surface Water Quality Improvement Activity #1: Accumulation Point Mapping and Removal (Coyote Creek and Guadalupe River)
Valley Water and City of San José completed visual trash assessments along Coyote Creek in October 2021 and Guadalupe River in November 2021. In spring of 2022, 40 cubic yards of trash were removed from Coyote Creek and 105 cubic yards of trash were removed from Guadalupe River. See the Coyote Creek and Guadalupe River Trash Accumulation Point GIS map here. FY23 assessments will begin in fall and winter of 2022.
- Surface Water Quality Improvement Activity #2: Reservoir Greenhouse Gas Emission Study
Valley Water is conducting a collaborative project with University of California, Davis to study greenhouse gas emissions from the surfaces of Almaden, Chesbro, Stevens Creek and Uvas reservoirs. Since January 2021, researchers have completed sampling events to measure gas storage in reservoir sediments (measured quarterly) and greenhouse gas fluxes from reservoir surfaces in conjunction with atmospheric and water quality data (measured monthly). The study was paused in summer 2022 due to equipment malfunction. Data collection will resume in 2023 and results will be synthesized in a final report or manuscript. The main goal of the study is to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from all Valley Water reservoirs for incorporation into its inventory of greenhouse gases. Valley Water uses this greenhouse gas inventory to achieve carbon neutrality through its Climate Change Action Plan.
- Surface Water Quality Improvement Activity #3 Unhoused Best Practices
Valley Water is collaborating with Santa Clara County Parks and the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy to provide vouchers for responsible disposal of wastewater for unhoused individuals living in RV’s. Vouchers can be used for free RV waste disposal at Coyote Lake and Mt. Madonna County Parks. In FY22 (July 2021-June 2022), waste disposal vouchers were distributed to unhoused individuals in by Morgan Hill and Gilroy homeless outreach providers. Voucher distribution will continue in FY23.
- Stevens Creek Reservoir Temperature, Turbidity, and Dissolved Oxygen Study 2020-2021
- Stevens Creek Reservoir Temperature, Turbidity, and Dissolved Oxygen Data Report 2020-2021
- Guadalupe River Watershed Mercury TMDL: 2020-2021 Progress Report on Methylmercury Control Measures in Reservoirs
Coordinated Monitoring Program
- CA Water Boards: TMDL
- Final Monitoring Plan
- Regional Board Approval Letter
- Guadalupe River Coordinated Monitoring Program 5-Year Report (2011-2016)
- Coordinated Monitoring Program Interim Monitoring Report 2018-2019
- Coordinated Monitoring Program 2019 Annual Progress Report
FY22-36 Key Performance Indicators for the Safe, Clean Water Program
Investigate, develop, and implement actions to reduce methylmercury in fish and other organisms in the Guadalupe River Watershed.
Prepare and update a plan for the prioritization of surface water quality improvement activities, such as addressing trash and other pollutants.
Implement at least two (2) priority surface water quality improvement activities identified in the plan per 5-year implementation period.
Reduces contaminants in streams and reservoirs
Improves water quality, including water slated for drinking water treatment plants
Increases understanding of mercury cycling in reservoirs to develop strategies that reduce toxic methylmercury in fish consumed by people and wildlife
Increases the scientific understanding of environmental pollutants to assist in developing actions to manage them
Supports regulatory compliance with surface water quality standards for local creeks and reservoirs
Addresses climate change
Geographic Area of Benefit
About the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program
In November 2020, voters in Santa Clara County overwhelmingly approved Measure S, a renewal of Valley Water’s Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program.
The program was first passed by voters in 2000 as the Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan, then again in 2012 as the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program. The renewal of the Safe, Clean Water Program will continue to provide approximately $47 million annually for local projects that deliver safe, clean water, natural flood protection, and environmental stewardship to all the communities we serve in Santa Clara County.
While evaluating ways to improve the 2012 program, Valley Water gathered feedback from more than 21,000 community members. That helped Valley Water create the six priorities for the renewed Safe, Clean Water Program, which are:
- Priority A: Ensure a Safe, Reliable Water Supply
- Priority B: Reduce Toxins, Hazards and Contaminants in our Waterways
- Priority C: Protect our Water Supply and Dams from Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters
- Priority D: Restore Wildlife Habitat and Provide Open Space
- Priority E: Provide Flood Protection to Homes, Businesses, Schools, Streets and Highways
- Priority F: Support Public Health and Public Safety for Our Community
Each year, Valley Water prepares a report providing a progress update for each of these program priorities, along with fiscal year accomplishments.
To ensure transparency and accountability to the voters, the ballot measure also created an Independent Monitoring Committee, appointed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors. The Independent Monitoring Committee annually reviews the program’s progress to ensure the outcomes are achieved in a cost-efficient manner and reports its findings to the Board. Additionally, the IMC also reviews each proposed 5-year implementation plan prior to its submittal for Board approval.
In addition, the program requires three independent audits.