Calling this a “year of action,” new board Chair Richard Santos outlined his priorities for 2018.

Santos, who has been chair twice before, took the helm of the Santa Clara Valley Water District board on Jan. 9. During the Jan. 23 board meeting, he set forth his focus which will include working together and being resilient. This focus includes flood risk reduction, emergency preparation, engaging the community and youth, and working closely with other government agencies to provide the best service to the community.

The overall theme for the year is resilience, to help the community weather the storms that nature throws our way and those that pop up in regards to funding, project completion, permitting and more.

According to Santos, the best way to be resilient is to be prepared and to work together. That includes pursuing important flood protection projects. A resident of Alviso and Milpitas, Santos has experienced significant floods three times in his life, and understands what it takes to rebound from that. Having been on the water district board since 2000, he also understands what it takes to complete flood protection projects.

Santos plans to use his experience to guide the water district through flood protection projects and working closely with the communities the district strives to protect. Specifically, the district will continue pursuing a project for Coyote Creek which saw significant flooding last year. The water district has already taken meaningful actions to reduce the flood risk there, and will continue to seek support from local, state and federal governments to help protect the community.

Related to that is emergency preparedness. In the case of flooding, earthquakes or other natural or man-made disasters, Santos emphasized the need to be ready to do our best to continue to supply the county with safe, clean water. That takes coordinated preparation well ahead of time.

For a resilient water supply, Santos said he and his fellow board members would work to provide staff with the tools they need to bring projects in on time and on budget.

Projects to pursue this year include major infrastructure improvements like the Anderson Dam retrofit, upgrades to our oldest water treatment plant and essential pipeline rehabilitation. These infrastructure improvements will help us ensure a reliable water supply no matter what extreme weather the changing climate brings.

We can’t make progress without our partners at all levels of government, and Santos emphasized the importance of working with other jurisdictions to make sure we are doing what we can to move our projects and programs forward. Collaboration will bring the community better service, better projects and a better use of the public’s funds.

We will also work closely with the community. The water district is undertaking efforts to expand our volunteer base, to get the community engaged in their water system, and to help us achieve our goal of providing Silicon Valley safe, clean water for a healthy life, environment and economy. With an active volunteer force, we increase our reach exponentially. Consider volunteering! Send an e-mail to volunteer@valleywater.org to get involved.

Santos is a proponent of providing youth with an opportunity to serve. Many of our volunteers are our county’s youth, an important part of our efforts. Ensuring young people can serve as employees and concerned members of the community in the future requires fostering relationships now. To do that, we have an education program where we work with schools to teach students all about water. We also have a Youth Commission, which accepts students in Santa Clara County to learn more about water in Silicon Valley.

Santos continued to encourage conservation as well. The water district board adopted a target reduction in water use of 20 percent over 2013 levels, which still stands.

The new chair vowed to keep it simple, be prepared and to value human dignity.

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