On May 14 through 21, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is joining hundreds of businesses, policy organizations, trade associations, water agencies, utility and transit groups across the country to observe National Infrastructure week. This week-long campaign is a countrywide effort to educate and advocate for investing in the backbone that supports our everyday lives.
Infrastructure is what allows our country to thrive: roads, energy grids, water and sewer systems, airports, bridges and much more. As essential as these are to our modern world, there’s just one problem — the physical systems that support these fundamental operations are decades old, and in some cases nearly a century old. To prevent further deterioration and build resiliency, government agencies and businesses know it’s time to invest attention and resources to the projects, technologies and policies necessary for prosperity and safety. The first step in doing so is spreading the word. Infrastructure Week allows us to highlight outstanding needs and projects that help close the gap.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District knows that investing in our infrastructure is key to paving our future. We’ve been investing and building our water systems to create reliable and sustainable infrastructure for decades. Our trailblazing efforts have been recognized and highlighted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In 1976, the district’s water conservation system was designated a California Historical Engineering Landmark, the first water system in the country to achieve this recognition. Over half a century later, we continue making smart investments and pursuing new technologies to keep our water system safe and reliable.
With 61 capital projects in the works, the water district is committed to preparing for future wet and dry years to ensure Santa Clara County’s 1.9 million residents have a reliable water supply no matter what extreme weather the changing climate brings. Here are some of our major undertakings that will keep our water safe and reliable:
- Rinconada Reliability Improvement Project – The Rinconada Reliability Improvement Project is our biggest modernization project to date. It will replace and upgrade all major plant components of the Rinconada Water Treatment Plant, our largest and oldest treatment plant. The project will increase the plant’s capacity from producing 80 to 100 million gallons of safe, clean drinking water per day. The project will also build new facilities to bring the plant’s treatments processes up to date with our Penitencia and Santa Teresa water treatment plants. This effort includes adding ozonation to the treatment process. Ozone is a highly effective disinfectant which improves the water quality and taste of our drinking water.
- Expedited Purified Water Program – The district’s board has been actively pursuing an expedited purified water program with several components that would allow for 45,000 acre-feet of purified water per year (enough water to supply 90,000 families of five for a year) to augment our groundwater supplies. The first phase of the program would include an expansion of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center and a pipeline system that would allow for replenishing groundwater with purified water via the system of percolation ponds off Los Gatos Creek. The water would be pumped later and treated for drinking water (this is known as indirect potable reuse). Last fall the board voted to pursue a public-private partnership for our purified water program. The water district issued a Request for Qualifications to seek a qualified partner for this effort. Concurrently, the water district is working with regional partners to continue evaluating the best methods for using recycled and purified water to bolster our water supply.
- Pipeline maintenance and rehabilitation – With our pipeline systems approaching the end of their lifespans, the water district developed a strategy and 10-year program to inspect, maintain and repair our network of pipes. We recently finished emergency repairs to a major West Valley pipeline as part of this program. In the next five years we’ll be inspecting nearly 80 miles of major pipelines and tunnels throughout the county.
- Dam seismic retrofits and improvements – The earliest elements of our local water system, including some of our dams, were built in the 1930s. Decades later, geological studies and analyses reveal these structures are in need of an upgrade. The water district has three dam seismic retrofit projects under way to fortify the dams for stability during an earthquake. An additional project at Almaden Dam will fortify the dam’s outlet structure for seismic stability. These reservoirs are currently operated below capacity due to restrictions from the state Division of Safety of Dams. With advancements in technology and engineering, we’re able to design projects that can help ensure public safety and allow us to maximize use of our water supply.
Ensuring our water supply meets future needs and our water system works properly is no short-term task. Nor is it one we can afford to put off. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is proud to join this educational movement in declaring the time to build is now. We invite you this week to follow the conversation and help share the importance of caring for our infrastructure.