Boating season opens: Common FAQs

Santa Clara County’s reservoirs are an invaluable piece of our drinking water supply. These 10 local bodies of water are a key to providing Silicon Valley with clean, safe water for a healthy life, environment and economy. And in the summer, they provide a bit of fun too.

For over 60 years, a partnership between the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department has allowed residents and visitors seasonal access to reservoirs for boating.  However, boating season can be affected by reservoir water levels.

This spring and summer, the Stevens Creek and Lexington are open to non-power boating; and Calero and Coyote reservoirs are open to boating (see more on rules and details here). Due to a drier-than-normal winter, Anderson Reservoir will be closed to boating. The following are frequently asked questions and responses; to provide more detailed information.

  • Why is boating allowed?
    The water district and county government agency serve the same population and have overlapping values. We believe in improving quality of life for our residents and supporting healthy communities through access to district facilities, including trails and open space along creeks and watersheds.


  • How much water does a reservoir need to allow for boating?
    Although water level requirement varies per reservoir, water levels need to be at the same height as the boat launch ramp at reservoirs where boating is allowed.


  • Why do you release so much water?
    Water releases from our reservoirs are primarily to supply our water treatment plants and replenish our groundwater aquifers, another critical source of drinking water. Water releases also help protect the environment by preserving habitat for fish. Even when we release water to creeks, our aquifers are being replenished. Our release operations must abide by rules imposed by state regulatory agencies, like the Department of Fish and Wildlife, for example.


  • Why did you allow so much water out of Anderson?
    Although a primary water supply facility, Anderson Reservoir allows for limited flood risk reduction along Coyote Creek. In October of 2017, the water district board of directors decided to lower the water level in Anderson to reduce chances of Anderson Reservoir filling and possibly spilling in the upcoming winter season. These releases happened by Dec. 1 and had a minimal effect on our water supply. The main reason for low water levels at Anderson Reservoir is below average rainfall. This past winter we experienced fewer and weaker storms than the 2016-2017 season. Runoff to our reservoirs was minimal.


  • When will Anderson reopen to boating?
    As our largest reservoir, Anderson is essential to our local water supply. During the summer when water demand is at its highest, we rely on Anderson water to continue supplying our water treatment plants and fill our percolation ponds. Water from Anderson also helps us maintain the quality of our drinking water. Oftentimes, lower-than-normal water levels at San Luis Reservoir can result in an algae bloom, affecting the taste and odor of water. Our reserves at Anderson allows us to switch water sources and continue providing Santa Clara County with quality and better-tasting water. The water district has actually been filling Anderson Reservoir with imported water from the San Luis Reservoir near Highway 152 since March to prepare for the summer. However, water levels are still not high enough to provide access to the boat launch. Other boating options in South County include Coyote and Calero reservoirs, approximately 20 and 14 miles from Anderson.


  • Why aren’t all reservoirs open to boating?
    Boating activities at district reservoirs are managed by the County’s Parks and Recreation Department. Boating is allowed on a seasonal basis at the listed reservoirs above and is permissible at Calero Reservoir year round when conditions allow. However, all boats are subject to a vessel inspection to inspect for zebra and quagga mussels, two fresh water species which cause numerous problems for boaters, wildlife and our reservoirs’ water intake systems. Boating is only allowed at district reservoirs with active inspection stations. Without adequate inspection facilities, all other reservoirs are closed indefinitely.On May 22, the water district board of directors lifted restrictions on vessels allowed to launch on Calero, Coyote and Anderson reservoirs. These restrictions were set in place in 1999 to protect water quality from impacts associated with boat fuel additives, particularly Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether and Benzene (MTBE), Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene (BTEX) compounds. Both the water district and county parks department agreed to limit the number of and type of boats allowed. The state of California banned the use of MTBE as a gasoline additive in 2004. Since then the water district has carefully monitored for these compounds in the water. A recent evaluation of the last 13 years of data revealed no indication of MTBE and BTEX in the reservoirs since the bans.  Therefore, the restrictions are no longer necessary. For more information on this item, see the board agenda memo from May 22, 2018.



  1. Open the reservoirs to swimming! The ban on swimming in our local lakes and such is one of the dumbest rules in this county.


  2. If we could provide clean, safe water for all of our Santa Clara County reservoirs, irregardless of the amount of rainfall that it takes to fill our reservoirs, Would the Santa Clara Valley Water District support a new technology that could be used to keep all of our reservoirs filled with clean, safe water, forever ?


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