by Richard P. Santos, Chair and District 3 Director, and John L. Varela, District 1 Director,
Santa Clara Valley Water District Board
Although many of the farm fields and orchards that once covered the valley floor are long since gone, agriculture remains an important part of Santa Clara County’s heritage and its future.
As in the past, the availability of water to grow crops and raise livestock affects individual farmers and ranchers as well as the economy of our county. Because of this, the Santa Clara Valley Water District continues to offer support to farmers, through the open space credit, which offers a credit on water rates to account for the benefits the larger community receives from that open space.
Additionally, the district supports agriculture through its planning efforts performed in partnership with local jurisdictions such as the South County Recycled Water Master Plan. Recently updated, this master plan, completed in partnership with the South County Regional Wastewater Authority (SCRWA) and cooperation with the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill, addresses a variety of options for expanding the use of recycled water in South County.
Most of the farming in Santa Clara County takes place in the southern portion of the county, where farmers, residents and businesses rely almost entirely on groundwater. The amount of groundwater pumped each year far exceeds what is replenished naturally by rainfall and other sources. So, the water district carefully replenishes the groundwater basin there, to ensure there is enough water. We do this using a mixture of water from local reservoirs and water imported to our county through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
In addition to refilling the groundwater basin through percolation ponds and creeks, the water district also works to reduce the amount of water that needs to be pumped through water conservation and recycled water programs. For example, every gallon of recycled water used is a gallon of groundwater that doesn’t need to be pumped.
To fund and implement the projects in the master plan, the district hopes to continue our partnership with the two cities and SCRWA, with the eventual goal of recycling 100 percent of the wastewater treated in South County, thereby decreasing local reliance on groundwater and bolstering our water supply.