The drought is getting worse, and we don’t know when it will end. With that in mind, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors has called for a water use reduction of 30 percent over 2013 levels and a restriction on irrigating landscapes and lawns with potable water to two days per week.
Governor Jerry Brown’s emergency order calling for mandatory reductions of 25 percent across the state followed the water district’s call for 30 percent reductions. It’s a bold step, and we are coordinating with local municipalities and water providers to implement these reductions in an effective way countywide.
And we have taken a number of bold steps since early last year. Since January 2014, water district staff and board of directors have been aggressive in responding to the drought, including increasing water conservation rebates, expanding drought awareness outreach, hiring water waste inspectors, improving recharge ponds and other water storage facilities to boost performance, and improving water use efficiency at our own facilities.
We have seen big gains over the past year. The number of sites participating in the lawn conversion rebate program increased nearly 600 percent from 2013 to 2014.
The water district is pursuing other measures to deal with the drought, including purchasing additional water from outside our region, bringing back water the district has stored in an underground aquifer near Bakersfield and expanding local drought-proof supplies of recycled and purified water that could be used for potable use.
However, now in a fourth extremely dry year, the alarm is sounding and it is time for urgent action.
Local reservoirs are about half full. The northern California Sierra snowpack, which provides 55 percent of Santa Clara County’s water supply in an average year, is only around 5 percent of normal for early April. Local groundwater levels are 30 to 40 feet below average, and starting 2015 at a greater deficit in groundwater supplies than last year.
Low groundwater levels are concerning because our groundwater basins serve as our valley’s largest “reservoir.” The water district works aggressively to protect these resources, but with less water available to replenish our groundwater basins, the increase in conservation is critical. Cutting water usage will help lessen the risk of subsidence.
Subsidence is the sinking of the surface of the land that occurs if too much water is drawn from the aquifer beneath it. Subsidence can damage underground infrastructure. The water district closely monitors groundwater conditions, and found that groundwater levels approached subsidence thresholds in several monitoring wells in 2014.
So what’s the easiest way to save water immediately? Limit watering ornamental outdoor landscapes, such as lawns, to two days a week. Your lawn can survive. Better yet, take advantage of the landscape rebate program the water district offers, which can provide $2 per square foot of lawn or a swimming pool replaced with water-wise plants.
If you need a little help or encouragement, the district offers a variety of tips and rebates for homes and businesses at
To report water wasting, email [email protected] or call (408) 630-2000.
Cutting water use countywide by 30 percent may seem like a dramatic step. But it’s necessary that we all work together to achieve this goal and protect our water supplies. If we save a little more now, we can possibly avoid drastic actions down the road.
Dennis Kennedy represents District 1 on the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors. He can be reached at [email protected].

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