Groundwater production rates: the cost of delivering safe, clean water

Since 1929 the Santa Clara Valley Water District has been managing the public’s most precious natural resource – water.  The water district manages 10 dams and reservoirs, nearly 400 acres of percolation ponds, 142 miles of pipeline, three water treatment plants, an advanced recycled water purification center and a state-of-the-art water quality lab. To continue delivering community services, the water district counts on groundwater production charges. Rate revenues help operate and maintain our large and complex system that keeps water flowing to your tap.

Every spring the Santa Clara Valley Water District provides residents the opportunity to participate in the public annual Groundwater Production Charge-Setting Process. Each year these charges are annually assessed and adjusted as necessary to cover costs in delivering safe, clean water to the people of Santa Clara County.

Most of the structures built to deliver water across our county are decades old, and some as old as half a century or more. Just as our bodies require extra care with age, our infrastructure is also in need of special attention and investment. Over the next five years, the water district is planning to invest over $1.4 billion for repair and rehabilitation of our facilities and systems.

The water district will soon be starting Phase 3 of the five-part Rinconada Water Treatment Plant Reliability Improvement Project, one of our largest modernization projects. The project will increase the 50-year old plant’s capacity to treat drinking water by 25 percent – treating up to 100 million gallons of water a day when completed. In addition to increased capacity, the plant will undergo several facility upgrades to secure the plant’s water treatment quality, including the addition of ozonation and fluoridation to the treatment process.

In addition to ensuring that our current facilities are first-rate quality, we must also invest in diversifying our water resources.  The water district is expanding its purified water program to bolster our local water supply.  By re-using water treated through an advanced purification process to produce safe, clean drinking water, we can be better prepared to face challenges brought on by climate change, future droughts and regulatory restrictions related to the state’s water infrastructure. This month the water district will install five monitoring wells up to 400 feet deep in Campbell. The wells will collect information to support lab testing on how purified water might affect groundwater. The information is essential in the pursuit of replenishing our groundwater aquifers with purified water in the future.

The last five years of historic drought resulted in higher costs for imported water necessary to meet our county’s needs without over pumping our groundwater basins and risking subsidence, or sinking of the land. While the precipitation outlook is better this year, the need to maintain and upgrade our delivery structures has not changed. Proposed groundwater rate increases this year are about 30-40 percent less than last year’s proposed rate increases.

Groundwater production rates affect well owners directly. Most county residents don’t pay these charges directly to the water district; but rather through their local water retailers. Local water retailers may also impose rate increases of their own.

Residents are invited to participate in our series of open houses and public meetings for the adoption of Fiscal Year 2017-18 rates. For a list of event dates and more information, visit:

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