Making conservation a way of life

With a wet winter following five years of drought, it can be tempting to return to old water-using ways.

But as we’ve seen in recent decades, we never know when the next drought will arrive, but we do know there will be one. In order to prepare for the next dry period and make sure water still flows from our taps when we turn them on, the board of the Santa Clara Valley Water District has continued its previous call for a 20 percent reduction in water use and to keep water conservation as a way of life.

The voluntary reduction number is intended to keep the importance of water conservation top of mind and to encourage people to maintain the water-saving behaviors they adopted during the drought.

The community is already doing that. Even with the wet winter, from January to April, the people of Santa Clara County have reduced water use by 28 percent over 2013 levels. In calendar year 2016, the community’s efforts saved about 70,000 acre feet of water. One acre-foot of water is enough to supply two families of five for a year. The board had a resolution calling for a 20 percent reduction in place. At its June 13 meeting, it rescinded that resolution and adopted a new one, still calling for a 20 percent reduction in water use and for efforts to make water conservation a way of life, but also commending the community and local water providers for their efforts, considering permanent water waste prohibitions including a maximum three-day-a-week irrigation schedule with potable water for ornamental landscapes or lawns, supporting continued investments in efforts to increase water use efficiency, and supporting the state’s water use efficiency targets and prohibitions.

An important factor in our water supply outlook is the state of our groundwater, as our groundwater basins hold more water than all 10 of our surface reservoirs combined. During the drought, we were on guard to make sure we didn’t experience subsidence, or the sinking of the land elevation, which can happen when too much water is withdrawn from the ground. Subsidence can lead to a number of other issues, including allowing saltwater into our freshwater aquifers, flooding in certain areas, and impacts to infrastructure such as pipelines, roads and bridges. Careful management of our groundwater and the important savings achieved by the community have put us on track to finish 2017 with our groundwater in the normal range.

Although the immediate water supply picture looks good, we know we are in for more drought years ahead, and we take planning and conservation seriously. That’s why, over the course of the drought, we spent nearly $25.2 million to help residents and businesses convert high-water-using turf to low-water-using landscapes and to help people switch to water-efficient appliances. Now, we offer rebates for irrigation equipment upgrades, landscape conversion, and graywater “laundry-to-landscape” systems.

We also offer a free Water Wise Survey Program. For the outdoor survey, we’ll send a trained irrigation professional to your house to complete a comprehensive evaluation of your irrigation system. For the indoor survey, we’ll send you a Do-it-Yourself kit to help you evaluate your indoor water use and test for leaks. Visit to learn how you can take advantage of the water district’s rebates and other conservation programs.

The significant rain has moved us out of emergency drought response mode and has afforded us the opportunity to focus more on long-term water conservation, so let’s work together to make water conservation a way of life.

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