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Morgan Hill
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November 28, 2022

Guest view: Residents, businesses must reduce water use

Despite some much-welcomed rain in April, Santa Clara County remains in a drought emergency.

These recent storms were nowhere near enough to make up for the record dry conditions that impacted California during the first three months of 2022. During that time, San Jose recorded .36 inches of rain combined, far below what we normally get (approximately 7.7 inches). The Sierra Nevada snowpack measured on April 1 was the fifth smallest on record. 

Snowmelt and rain from the Sierra Nevada are sources for our imported water, which makes up about half of Santa Clara County’s water supply. 

Based on the record dry conditions so far in 2022, the amount of imported water Santa Clara County will receive this year from the state and federal government was significantly reduced. These limited amounts of imported water bring conservation to the forefront of our drought-fighting efforts. 

On April 12, my fellow board members and I unanimously voted to restrict the watering of lawns and ornamental landscapes in Santa Clara County to no more than two days a week. We also voted to prohibit watering during the warmest parts of the day (for example, no irrigation between 7am and 7pm).

The board also adopted other recommendations to help households reduce their water use, including:

– Making sure irrigation doesn’t cause runoff

– Call for uniform watering days and times among water retailers who do not have existing restrictions on days and times

– Prioritizing tree irrigation over lawns and ornamental landscapes

Our agency has been a statewide leader in taking actions to reduce water use during this drought. In June 2021, we established a 15% water use reduction goal for Santa Clara County compared to 2019. Overall, residents, businesses and farmers reduced water use by 6% between June 2021 and February 2022. 

I want to thank everyone who has taken steps to reduce water use. Please continue your water conservation efforts.

But we have a way to go to reach our 15% goal. As we enter the warmer spring and summer months, now is the time for residents and businesses to ramp up their water-saving efforts.

Typically, outdoor water use represents about half of household water use. We believe Santa Clara County can reach the 15% reduction this year if everyone limits outdoor watering to no more than two days a week.

Valley Water is also doing our part to help Santa Clara County get through this drought. 

Our agency will continue expanding programs that promote efficient watering and reduce runoff. We can help residents and businesses reduce water use through a variety of programs, including a rebate to replace thirsty lawns with a drought-tolerant landscape. Please visit watersavings.org to take advantage of our robust conservation rebates and programs.

We are purchasing emergency water on the open market to ensure our communities continue to have a reliable supply of safe, clean water. Unfortunately, as water becomes scarce during this severe drought, it also becomes more expensive. The best way to save money is to save water.

In addition, Valley Water is making smart and necessary investments in water infrastructure and technology. We’ll need to be prepared for severe droughts by developing and managing drought-resilient water supplies, such as increasing our use of recycled and purified water. 

Please join us in adapting to drought by reducing your outdoor watering to no more than two days a week. Together we can reach the 15% water reduction goal.

John Varela is the Chair Pro Tem of the Valley Water Board Directors. He represents Valley Water’s District 1, which includes South County. 

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