Agency urges 15 percent reduction in water use compared to 2019


By Marty Cheek

Santa Clara County and the rest of California are in an extreme drought and residents must act to protect the region’s water supply, according to Valley Water officials.

To deal with the threat, the Valley Water board unanimously voted June 9 to declare a water shortage emergency condition in Santa Clara County. This declaration, which is among the strongest actions the agency can take under law, allows Valley Water to work with retailers, cities and the county to implement regulations and restrictions on the delivery and consumption of water. The board also urges the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors to proclaim a local emergency to show the public the seriousness of the threats posed by the extreme drought.

“Increased conservation is also necessary to protect local water supplies and guard against groundwater overdraft, subsidence, and dry domestic wells, especially if the drought extends into next year,” said Valley Water Board Chair Tony Estremera in a statement. “That’s why my fellow board members and I also are calling for a mandatory 15 percent reduction in water use compared to 2019.”

In the past drought, South Valley residents took significant action to conserve water.  Starting in mid-April 2015, California officials mandated statewide water use reductions and the Santa Clara Valley Water District (the former name of Valley Water) asked Santa Clara County for an overall water use reduction of 30 percent as compared to water usage in 2013.  Morgan Hill residents’ conservation efforts reduced water use by 39 percent in April 2015 and 37 percent in May 2015.

Valley Water is a wholesaler, selling to cities who serve as retailers to local customers. The agency won’t send out enforcement “cops” that go door to door to limit water use. It will instead provide incentives and education to encourage county residents to limit their water use, especially in the landscaping of yards and gardens.

“We did have some great water conservation done compared to Southern California,” Valley Water Board Member Gary Kremen said of the last drought years. “People up here really stepped up. We’re really about the carrot approach. People talked about fines. We’d rather give people incentives not to use water.”

The water reduction will impact people’s lives but Valley Water will make sure the county has a supply that can sustain daily household activities such as cooking and bathing, he said.

“There’s a lot of things people can do to save water,” Kremen said. “No one is asking people to stop taking showers. It might be good to take a shower with someone to save water, but no one is asking you to stop taking showers.”

Valley Water will  launch a campaign to educate the public on ways to save water. It also offers rebates and free gear such as low-flow nozzles to help residents and businesses save water and money, including the Landscape Rebate Program. To learn more, visit watersavings.org.

Marty Cheek