Throughout the county, the Santa Clara Valley Water District maintains a series of ponds that we use to percolate water into the ground. These ponds are a vital component of our water supply picture, allowing us to transfer water into our underground aquifers where we store it for later use. Our aquifers hold more water than all 10 of our surface reservoirs combined, and in dry times, we rely heavily on these underground basins for our water supply.
These percolation ponds have another incidental value that benefits the people of Santa Clara County: fire suppression. When fires move through an area, a nearby source of water can make a huge difference in helping to fight it.
Recently, some ponds in the northeast part of our county had been dry due to a seismic retrofit of three large pipelines used to import water into the county from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Penitencia Delivery Main, Penitencia Force Main and the South Bay Aqueduct pipe systems were taken down for the crucial work, which meant that the pipes that send water to the ponds were unavailable. Water district groundwater replenishment operations were also limited because of the work.
However, while the important retrofit work continues, we have been able to bring the pipelines back up, and with them, water to our percolation ponds in the area. The timing was fortuitous, because those ponds were then used by CAL FIRE helicopters to fight the Lariat Fire near Alum Rock Park.
This isn’t the first time our percolation ponds have helped to fight fires — CAL FIRE has pulled water from them before, as well as from many of our 10 reservoirs, when fighting a nearby fire. And it won’t be the last. Fire season can be a dangerous time in our county, and the Santa Clara Valley Water District is pleased that our water supply system can help keep residents, businesses and our environment safe.