Emergency water restrictions approved in Santa Clara County
Mandatory water restrictions are on their way to taps and pipes in Santa Clara County as the region faces “extreme drought” and dismal water supplies.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors on Wednesday announced a water shortage emergency in a 7-0 vote, setting targets to reduce water use across County of 15% from 2019 levels.
The vote recommends that local water retailers and cities adopt restrictions and pricing solutions, hoping to avoid removing excess water from the region’s underground supply and aquifers, the first mandatory reductions since the 2012-2016 drought.
“There just isn’t a lot of water in this dry year,” said Aaron Baker, Valley Water District chief operating officer. “We recommend acting now, because water reduction takes time to implement and the current situation is unprecedented.”
So what does 15% less water use look like?
For now, South Bay residents should refrain from worrying about fewer pots of coffee during endless work cycles or sparse rains during summer heatwaves. Instead, proposed drought bans include limiting watering of ornamental lawns to a maximum of three days per week and limited private washing of cars, boats, or other vehicles without shutoff hoses.
Additionally, the water shortage may mean restaurants will not provide glasses of water unless customers request them, and swimming pools will be prohibited from filling or filling.
Half of Santa Clara County’s water supply is imported from outside the county limits, but even those supplies are smaller. Santa Clara Valley Water District Board Vice Chairman Gary Kremen said the reduction is needed after another very dry winter resulting in little snowfall in the Sierra. Additionally, these water supply issues are exacerbated by the largely empty Anderson Reservoir, which was emptied in December 2020 for seismic upgrades and other projects.
Kremen said soaring prices now make it more difficult to buy water on the open market, as everyone is feeling the pressure of supply. The San Jose Water Company has said it will continue to monitor its supply, but has yet to say whether water prices for its million customers will increase due to conservation efforts.
Since reducing residential water use will not solve the entire water scarcity, director Linda LeZotte said a minimalist mindset when people turn their taps is one tool to address. if needed.
She said Valley Water will work to provide clearer messages and education on what exactly a 15% reduction in water use looks like, now and for the foreseeable future.
“All of these calculations really don’t mean anything to someone who is listening,” LeZotte said. “If you follow the science, this is the new normal. Conservation is going to be a way of life.