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.
Priority A: Ensure a Safe, Reliable Water Supply
Priority A projects upgrade aging water infrastructure, such as dams, pipelines and water storage and treatment systems, to reduce the risk of water outages. It includes the Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project to increase water storage to provide more security for our drinking water supplies in emergencies and the project to provide water conservation rebates and programs to increase water-use efficiency and ensure sustainability for drinking water supplies throughout the county.
Priority B: Reduce Toxins, Hazards and Contaminants in Our Waterways
Priority B projects use multiple strategies to reduce and remove contaminants in our local creeks, streams and bays. Along with mercury treatment systems in our reservoirs, projects under this priority prevent toxins from entering waterways by working with municipalities and other agencies across the region to reduce runoff pollution. The priority includes funding to support the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure and provide rapid emergency response to hazardous materials spills and support volunteer cleanup efforts.
Priority C: Protect Our Water Supply from Earthquakes and Natural Disasters
The Priority C project helps protect our drinking water supply and water quality infrastructure from natural disasters, such as earthquakes. This priority provides partial funding to retrofit Anderson Dam so that it can safely withstand a large earthquake. Known as the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit project, the project would continue to ensure public safety and secure a reliable water supply.
Priority D: Restore Wildlife Habitat and Provide Open Space
Priority D projects restore and protect wildlife habitat. Work under this priority includes controlling non-native, invasive plants; replanting native species; and maintaining previously replanted areas. Other projects include removing barriers to fish movement, improving steelhead habitat and stabilizing eroded creek banks. To support restoration projects, Valley Water will continue to build and update a comprehensive watershed database that tracks stream ecosystem conditions helping Valley Water and other organizations make informed watershed, asset management and natural resource decisions.
Priority E: Provide Flood Protection to Homes, Businesses, Schools and Highways
Priority E focuses on providing flood protection through major capital construction projects. Projects are prioritized to protect the largest number of people, homes, and businesses, as well as safeguard the highways, streets, public transportation, and business centers that people depend on for their livelihoods.
Almost all the construction projects under this priority describe a preferred project that relies on state and federal government funding, and a local-funding-only project. Should federal funding become scarce, Valley Water would reduce the project scope to the local-funding-only project, as described in the individual project summaries. Whenever possible, Valley Water also leverages funds from state, local municipalities, and other stakeholders.
Climate change is a global reality and is expected to result in sea-level rise and more variable weather patterns, leading to potentially bigger and more frequent floods. Valley Water incorporates climate change projections, especially sea-level rise, in the design and construction of more resilient flood protection projects that increase the capacity of channels to convey higher storm events without overbanking into local streets, highways, and neighborhoods.
Priority F: Support Public Health and Public Safety for Our Community
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic that drastically altered our worldview, the critical need for safe, clean water supplies and essential water infrastructure, particularly during emergencies, has come into sharper focus. This newly proposed priority pulls together multi-benefit projects that were previously placed under other priorities in the 2012 Safe, Clean Water Program and groups them based on their common benefit of supporting public health and public safety along our waterways and critical infrastructure.
This priority includes enhanced funding to support public safety by partnering with local municipalities on services related to encampment cleanups; reducing trash and other pollutants from entering waterways from encampments to support public health; and ongoing vegetation control and sediment removal activities to maintain conveyance capacity of flood protection projects. It also provides additional funding for grants and partnerships for local agencies, organizations and individuals for water conservation, pollution prevention, creek cleanups and education, wildlife habitat and access to trails and open space.
Additionally, it includes two new efforts: a project to fund public art to beautify Valley Water property and infrastructure to deter graffiti and litter; and a long-term effort to ensure that existing flood protection infrastructure continues to function sustainably for continued public safety. Other projects include vegetation management for access and fire safety, removing flood-inducing blockages and improving coordination and communication in flood emergencies.