Five years before a historic drought rocked the state, a coalition of water agencies, business associations and conservation groups embarked on a concerted effort to highlight the importance of preserving our most precious resource. By creating the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards, this conscientious group sought to recognize local leaders in water conservation and reward model behavior. A global leader in technology and innovation, Silicon Valley also leads the race in water conservation and reuse.
This year, seven winners were honored at the awards’ 10-year celebration, held on none other than World Water Day, March 22 in Palo Alto. Among the region’s water conservation leaders, the Santa Clara Valley Water District received an award for its education efforts on purified water, which includes free tours of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center in San José. Board Chair Richard Santos, District 3, Vice Chair Linda LeZotte, District 4, and Director Gary Kremen, District 7, received the award on behalf of the water district at the gala.
The facility is the largest of its kind in Northern California. Using microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultra-violet light disinfection, the purification center processes up to eight million gallons of secondary-treated effluent into advanced purified water daily. The result: pure, clean and safe water that meets or exceeds state water drinking standards. Purified water is currently used for irrigation and industrial uses, but the district is partnering with cities and regional partners to evaluate the possibility of augmenting drinking water supplies with this drought-proof source.
While we develop the physical and strategic framework to carry out our purified water expansion, the district continues to educate and build advocacy for this water source of the future. In the last four years, we’ve hosted nearly 6,000 individuals in approximately 300 tour groups. On average, post-tour surveys show that more than 90 percent of participants support the concept of using purified water to bolster our drinking water supplies. An annual public perception survey conducted in November 2017, reveals that public support for potable reuse is at 63 percent. If you haven’t checked it out already, you can sign up for a free tour at www.purewater4u.org. And if you have seen it, grab some friends that haven’t and show them what it’s all about!
Also honored as this year’s top water savers were:
City of Mountain View (Government Agency)
In the last decade the city has reduced drinking water use by 38 percent. Having installed a recycled water system, implemented dual-plumbed building (to allow for drinking and graywater use within the same building), rolled out WaterSmart meter service, and promoted water-wise landscapes, the city continues identifying ways to save water.
Sierra Circuits (Business)
This circuit board manufacturer located in Sunnyvale implemented a reuse water system to reduce required water and recycled water used in treating metals to produce circuit boards. They reuse about 60-70 percent of all water used in their manufacturing processes.
San José State University (Organization)
The state’s oldest public university continues its expansion of recycled water on campus. Since the end of 2011, the Main Campus uses recycled water for all irrigation purposes; and a new recycled water main to serve the rest of campus was completed in 2016. The Student Union building was retrofitted and included a dual-plumbed system allowing for further water reuse on campus. And just last year, the campus converted existing boilers from using drinking water to recycled water.
City of Morgan Hill (Greenscape Management)
A major transformation turned five parcels of city property covered in grass to water-wise plants and mulch. The City of Morgan Hill worked closely with the water district to create prime demonstration gardens, complete with water-efficient irrigation including in-line drip systems.
A Mountain View-based startup invented a first-of-its-kind water reuse system to collect both rainwater and water produced from air condition units to reuse for landscape irrigation, cooling towers, and a variety of uses.
Sherri Osaka (Water Champion)
Owner of Sustainable Landscape Designs, Sherri volunteers on the water district’s Landscape Advisory Committee and also as chair of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. She organizes over 30 free workshops on sustainable landscaping and teaches water saving classes through the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.
For more information on the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards and this year’s winners, visit www.waterawards.org.