Mandatory water restrictions approved for 2 million people in Santa Clara County – East Bay Times
Santa Clara County on Wednesday became the most populous county in California to impose mandatory water restrictions, as water officials set a goal of reducing water use by 33% across the country. county from 2013 levels, and said worsening drought poses a significant threat to groundwater supplies in and around San Jose which provide nearly half of the drinking water to the 2 million people. county residents.
On a 7-0 vote, the Santa Clara Valley Water District board declared an emergency water shortage. The district, a San José-based government agency that serves as the county’s wholesale water supplier, has also urged cities and private water companies that buy its water to put in place water-wasting rules and other mandates, in particular by limiting the watering of lawns to a maximum of three. days a week. As in the last drought, the rules should include monthly water allowances for each household beyond which financial penalties would apply.
“We see the perfect storm building up and it’s right in front of us,” said Rick Callender, District CEO, also known as Valley Water. “We can’t recommend playing or crossing our fingers. “
The last two winters have been the driest since the 1976-77 drought. Santa Clara County is in worse shape than many other counties as its largest reservoir, Anderson, near Morgan Hill, was drained last year by federal officials to rebuild the dam to improve earthquake safety . The county suffered another heavy blow when federal agencies announced they would cut water allocations to towns in the delta in half due to a meager snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.
To compensate, groundwater pumping will have to increase, Callender said. And if next winter is dry, groundwater levels could drop to emergency standards, increasing the risk of land subsidence, a phenomenon known as subsidence, which can lead to cracks on the soil. roads, sidewalks, house foundations and pipes.
“We can see the emergency directly in our sights and it’s closer than we’d like,” Callender said.
Santa Clara County towns and private water companies, known as “retailers” because they send water bills to customers, are expected to adopt new drought restrictions in the coming weeks and months in response to the crisis. district vote Wednesday.
These rules are expected to mirror many of the rules that were in place during the 2012-2016 drought, and could be more stringent, as county residents reduced their water use by 28% from 2013 levels during the peak. of the last drought, but are now being asked to exceed this figure by 5% more.
Cities and private water companies have yet to indicate how they intend to comply with the district’s request. But there were calls on Wednesday for them to coordinate with each other to avoid a confusing patchwork of different regulations across the county, such as what days and times lawn watering will be allowed, or what will be the monthly water allowance per house.
“We can have clients with one set of rules on one set of the street and another set of rules across the street,” said Roger Lee, director of public works for the city of Cupertino. “It becomes very difficult with messaging. “
Water district officials said their main goal is to reduce the use of outdoor water on landscaping and lawns, which accounts for up to 50% of urban water use during the year. ‘been in many communities.
“At the moment, our main focus is on outdoor irrigation,” said Aaron Baker, director of water district operations. “We are not seeking to interfere with public health and safety, or responsible water quantities for commercial applications.”
Foreshadowing the public debate to come, many members of the public asked a variety of common questions that arise during droughts.
“If we have more people living in our house, will there be per capita issues that come into play? Said Tessa Woodman, a resident of San Jose. “It’s important, lots of water per person.”
Bud Burkett, a resident of the Villages Golf and Country Club in San Jose, said the 4,500 residents only receive a water bill once every two months. Sometimes they have leaks in their pipes and don’t know it. Many are elderly and cannot read their water meters, which are under steel covers in the ground, he said.
“Things are breaking down. The pipes are breaking, ”he said. “We may have excessive water consumption in the community that we weren’t counting on.
In 2015, San Jose Water Company, a private company that serves 1 million people in San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga and other communities, implemented drought rule allocations that allowed every household the same. quantity – 13 water units per month – during the months of July, August and September. This was about 30% less than 19 units, which was the 2013 average for those months in the San Jose Water territory. Each unit is 100 cubic feet, or 748 gallons.
Taxpayers were assessed a penalty of $ 3.56 per unit for each unit over and above their allowance. Homes that used more than the 2013 benchmark received an additional $ 7.12 per unit. The drought surcharges were removed after the drought ended in 2017, although the company imposed further rate hikes in subsequent years.
San Jose Water has not yet indicated how it plans to meet the new water district goals, although officials noted that as a private company, any drought rule or supplement must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, which could take several months.
“Our customers have always responded to calls for water conservation with a sustained and concerted effort,” said Andy Gere, president of San Jose Water Company, in a statement. “It’s a strong partnership and San Jose Water is ready to help as we face yet another drought.”
During the most recent drought, the water company and district received complaints about surcharges – which were prompted by former Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order requiring water companies and cities to cut their taxes. water consumption in varying percentages.
“The biggest complaint we received was from large landowners,” said Barbara Keegan, member of the Water District Board of Directors. “They thought that because they had bigger gardens, they should be allowed to use more water. I am very sympathetic to keeping trees alive, but during a drought we all have to suffer, and the health and safety of people is more important than ornamental landscaping.