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Editorial: Drought may be over, but conservation is now a way of life

Published in the June 7 – June 20, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

On lookers take photos of water rushing out of outlet pipe at bottom of Anderson Dam in January 2017.
Photo by Marty Cheek

Thank you, Mother Nature, for all the rain we received this winter and spring. California had one of the wettest seasons in decades.

The Sierra snowpack is 164 percent of historical average. And throughout the state and Santa Clara Valley region reservoirs are filled. San Luis Reservoir on Pacheco Pass, which provides our region with much of its water, is now completely full.

In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown declared the state was in an emergency drought situation. He declared last month the state of emergency was over for most of California. This is positive news, but it does not mean Golden State residents should stop their diligent conservation efforts. Those efforts were important to surviving the drought years, but we need to remember that California’s nearly 40 million people need the precious resource of water so vital to our economic prosperity and even life survival.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

Besides the fact that the governor lifted the emergency declaration, he also removed the mandatory water reduction requirements and an order for water service and city government agencies to take actions to reduce water waste.
Still remaining in effect are water reporting requirements to curb wasteful practices. These include prohibiting irrigation right after a storm or having residents use a shut-off nozzle on their hoses when they are washing their vehicles.

The people of Santa Clara County should be especially proud of their efforts to save water. We cut back by 27 percent in 2015 and by 28 percent in 2016 compared to the amount of water we used in 2013.

Our water-saving activities helped our valley’s groundwater basins to rebound to normal levels in 2017. This helps ensure people in areas that use wells, such as San Martin, will have water. But it also helps to avert the risk of subsidence, a serious threat as land sinks due to excessive pumping of groundwater, making it all but impossible to rebound quickly.

In Santa Clara County, not only have our groundwater conditions improved but we have increased our water allocations from the Central Valley. The Santa Clara Valley Water District will receive its full allocation of 152,500 acre feet of the federally-managed Central Valley Project. This is enough water to provide for the needs of more than 300,000 households of five residents. Adding to this amount is the 60,000 acre-feet allocations from the State Water Project. That’s enough water for up to 120,000 households.

The SCVWD annually receives a certain portion of imported water from federal and state sources. This year, the district received 100 percent of the federal allocations requested. This is a rare occurrence and the last time this happened was 11 years ago. The water district also received 60 percent of the full allocation from the state.
The outlook of the water supply throughout the state is much more positive than it was a year ago. But we must remember that droughts are a part of California’s history.

We will no doubt face climate change issues and weather challenges in the coming years. That’s why we need to make water conservation a way of life for all residents in the South Valley region and throughout the state.
There are the easy activities such as taking shorter showers and turning off the tap when you are lathering soap or shampooing. Also consider keeping up the habit of washing a full load of laundry and dishes. And if your faucets and toilets are leaking, take steps to prevent the waste of water with either a home-repair or a call to the local plumber.

The city of Morgan Hill is implementing watering restrictions to three days a week effective April 1 through Oct. 31. Irrigation is limited to three days a week: Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays for odd numbered addresses; Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays for even numbered addresses. No watering on Wednesdays. Watering is permitted before 9 a.m. and after 7 p.m. Watering is limited to no more than 15 minutes per watering day per station.
While the record winter rains we recently enjoyed have washed away the impact of years of drought throughout California, we must remember that a drought can always be just one dry winter away.

Water is always a precious resource. Use it wisely.