It can sometimes be tough to find common ground, but there’s one thing most Americans can agree on: the importance of investing in our country’s infrastructure.
A new poll by the Value of Water Campaign, released for Infrastructure Week, found that 67 percent of Americans, regardless of demographics, geography or political bent, agreed that the federal government should focus on rebuilding America’s infrastructure.
That’s already a high number, but when the questionnaire focused on water, it jumped to 82 percent of Americans agreeing that rebuilding our water infrastructure was very or extremely important.
What is water infrastructure?
In general, infrastructure refers to the facilities and systems that serve a region. This can include roads and bridges, utilities, communication systems and schools. When we talk about water infrastructure, we are referring to facilities that include pumps and pipelines, water treatment plants, dams and reservoirs, percolation ponds and more.
As the main wholesale water provider in Santa Clara County, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has an extensive network of water infrastructure that helps to move water throughout the valley, to areas where it can recharge the groundwater basin and to reservoirs and treatment plants that supply our local water retailers who then get the water to homes and businesses. We also have flood protection projects that we build and maintain.
We work hard to care for our infrastructure which includes:
- 10 dams and surface water reservoirs;
- 3 pump stations that push large volumes of water throughout the valley;
- 142 miles of pipelines;
- 3 water treatment plants – Santa Teresa in south San Jose, Penitencia in east San Jose, and Rinconada in Los Gatos;
- 1 water purification center;
- 17 flood protection projects under way; and
- 400 acres of recharge ponds that refill the groundwater basin.
Why is infrastructure such a hot topic?
For the water district, infrastructure is always a hot topic. One of our main jobs is to deliver safe, clean water reliably, and old or dilapidated infrastructure would make that job a lot harder.
“It is critical that the water district continues to monitor the condition of its water supply infrastructure, and rehabilitate the system as it ages in order to continue to provide a reliable supply of drinking water for Santa Clara County,” said Erin Baker, Asset Management Manager for the water district. “If we don’t maintain our dams, pipelines, pump stations, and treatment plants, we’ll experience service interruptions due to infrastructure failures. Our goal is to maintain the system and replace aging infrastructure as needed so this doesn’t happen.”
So we work hard to maintain what we have – some of which is about 80 years old – and we also are working to modernize our facilities that were built in the previous century, as far back as the 1930s.
Modernizing aging infrastructure
One effort to modernize our infrastructure is the retrofitting of Anderson Dam. Built in 1950, the dam does not meet today’s seismic standards, but it remains an important part of our water supply picture, with Anderson Reservoir the largest of the water district’s 10 reservoirs. We are currently in the design phase for the retrofit project, and construction is expected to begin in spring of 2020.
Another modernization effort is the Rinconada Reliability Improvement Project. The Rinconada Water Treatment Plant in the hills of Los Gatos began operations in 1967 and is the oldest of the water district’s three water treatment plants. It is also the sole supplier of drinking water to customers in the western areas of Santa Clara County. The modernization project began in 2015 and is expected to conclude in 2019.
When it’s finished, Rinconada will have replaced or upgraded major plant components and the plant’s treatment capacity will increase to 100 million gallons of water a day from 80 million gallons today. The work will help the water district meet increasingly stringent standards for water quality, seismic stability and safety, and will improve the reliability of its service to the western part of the county.
For more information on the poll, visit the Value of Water Campaign.