Published in the May 8 – 21, 2019 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Water 101 Academy Session 2 Group Photo

Water 101 Academy class photo. Photo courtesy Valley Water

Swanee Edwards

For those who have a tough time understanding water issues and really don’t know what the Santa Clara Valley Water District does, I have great news.

More than a year ago, I heard a rumor that Valley Water— as they are now known — was thinking about discontinuing their educational and outreach program to our students and the public. After expressing our concern that a valuable resource might be lost, I met Rick Calendar, chief of external affairs, and Marta Lugo, water and education outreach and volunteer program administrator at the district.

I was assured by both of these administrators that not only were these educational programs going to continue but plans were in the works to do even more to engage students and residents in educating all in the district about the work of Valley Water and in educating the public about what we can do to partner with them in our communities.

An informal volunteer group of activists, environmentalists, and volunteers discussed what needed to be done to outreach to the public. We had folks who clean creeks, and rivers, as well as those who care deeply about clean water and fisheries, come together and work on solutions in engaging our residents. This went on for about a year. The efforts resulted in planning the  inaugural Water 101 Academy in 2019.

The program overview includes welcoming all community members of Santa Clara County who want to gain a better understanding of local water issues and learn about current and future water projects. The district hopes to build and sustain a diverse group network of “ambassadors” willing to serve their community in education about water issues, projects, and most importantly refer others in our communities to future academy sessions.

Session themes include the value of water, where it comes from and how does it get to homes and businesses in Silicon Valley; how does the district protect us from floods, as well as provide for healthy steams and eco-systems; and the importance of watersheds, stream clean-ups and maintenance. In other sessions we learned how important water conservation and water reuse is to the health of the whole community in maintaining clean water for domestic and industrial use.

My favorite session was the tour on the Saturday before graduation. We took a comfortable bus ride to San Luis Reservoir on Pacheco Pass. There we stopped at the Romero Overlook. Like many of you, I had driven by it but never stopped. The water was high and the reservoir was full from all the recent rain. Water for as far as one could see! We then listened to a short introduction about San Luis and its history.

Afterward, we were treated to a short video of the opening of San Luis showing President John F. Kennedy’s remarks on Aug. 18, 1962 about what a progressive achievement this project represented for America. I was so impressed at the vision of the state and federal leadership back in the ‘50s and ‘60s to make sure we captured and stored water in Central California.

On the way back to San Jose, we toured Anderson Reservoir and took the bus over the dam. As many times as we pass this dam, we never realized how many seismic instruments that now dot the face of the earthen dam. By far, the very best part of the day was the tour of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center in Alviso. On our way it was pointed out to us where percolation ponds are located that recharge our South County underground storage.

Once we arrived at the water purification plant, we were taken through the huge facility. Our guide explained how water comes in from the sewage treatment plant next door and how the recycled  water is further purified through several systems including micro-filtration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet disinfection. The result is eight million gallons a day of highly purified water to supplement the districts supply. I drank a bottle of the purified water — and loved it! No taste or smell and the water was sweet and cold.

It was an amazing day and the Water Academy program was worth every minute. We highly recommend this program to anyone who wishes to know more about our water and Valley Water that manages and protects it. For information about Valley Water’s next Ambassador Program, email [email protected]

Swanee Edwards is a Morgan Hill resident and advocate of protecting our local water resources.

Marty Cheek