More than three years after an emergency drought declaration in 2014, Governor Jerry Brown declared an end to the state of emergency for most of California. With one of the wettest winters in decades and the Sierra snowpack at 164 percent of historical average, conditions are much improved in regional and state reservoirs.
Although anyone following our state’s historic drought may be quick to give credit to the last two winters which delivered healthy levels of precipitation to our state, the diligent conservation efforts of residents were instrumental to surviving the drought. The governor urged Californians to remember their water-saving ways, stating “this drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner. . . Conservation must remain a way of life.”
In addition to lifting the emergency declaration, the governor also removed mandatory water reduction requirements and an order for agencies to implement actions to reduce water waste. However, many water reporting requirements and orders to curb wasteful practices, like prohibiting irrigation right after a rain storm or requiring residents to use hoses with shut-off nozzles for washing a car, still remain in place to provide a framework for long-term water waste reduction.
In Santa Clara County residents have excelled at saving water, cutting back by 27 percent in 2015 and 28 percent in 2016 compared to water use in 2013. The community’s water-saving ways helped the region’s groundwater basins rebound to normal levels this year. This collective effort helped avert the serious risk of subsidence, or sinking of the land due to excessive pumping of groundwater.
In addition to improved groundwater conditions, our imported water allocations have also increased. The water district will receive its full allocation of 152,500 acre-feet of the federally managed Central Valley Project, about enough water to provide for 305,000 households of five. Additionally, the State Water Project has announced initial allocations of 60,000 acre-feet, or enough water for 120,000 households.
Every year the water district receives a certain amount of imported water from both federal and state projects. It’s rare to receive the full allocation of the contracted amount, but this year we will receive 100 percent of our federal allocations request (the last time was in 2006) and about 60 percent from the state (same as last year, but this number could still be adjusted).
While this is all positive news, what does it mean for Santa Clara County residents?
For starters it means our state’s water supply is looking a lot healthier. And in the spirit of a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to keep our good habits and not go back to wasteful ways. Living a healthy lifestyle requires permanent changes; the journey doesn’t stop when a specific goal is reached.
A healthy lifestyle for California means incorporating water-saving ways in our everyday lives. Our state has a history of droughts and will face more weather challenges with climate change. Unable to predict when these dry spells will happen and for how long, the best way to be prepared is to make conservation a way of life. It can be as simple as taking shorter showers or turning off the water when you lather soap and shampoo, washing full loads of laundry and dishes, and fixing leaky faucets and toilets.
To help residents take steps toward permanent conversation measures, the water district provides an array of programs and rebates:
- Recycle water around the house with a laundry-to-landscape graywater system.
- Convert your thirsty turf for a water-wise native landscape with our landscape conversion rebate program.
- Upgrade your irrigation equipment for smarter watering practices with our irrigation equipment upgrade rebate program.
- Take a water wise survey to analyze how efficient your water use is both inside and outside the home. This revamped program has two components:
- A trained irrigation professional will evaluate your landscape irrigation system
- Order a Do-It-Yourself indoor survey kit complete with leak tests and a step-by-step guide to evaluating your own water use
For more information on how to incorporate these water-saving methods into your daily life, stop by at our free educational workshops. For a list of events and dates, click here.
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The Public Policy Institute of California web site states that for the past 10 years (2005-2014) 90% of California’s water is used for agriculture and the environment and only 10% is used for ALL residences and ALL businesses!!! So, why place such an emphasis on residential conservation when it amounts to such a small amount of California’s water?
I’m all for conservation, and have been conserving water for many decades, but I’d much rather see California install water meters for all water users (thousands of which do not have any meters) instead of trying to convince residential users that they can make a big difference in water conservation.
If ALL businesses and ALL residences cut back their water use by 50%, that would amount to a state-wide reduction of just 5%, which isn’t all that much compared to the big users.
Government agencies ought to go after the big water users, not the homeowners who use such a relatively minuscule amount of water.