Winter Water update

For water experts, the year begins in October — the water year, that is. That’s because a water year is a 12-month period during which hydrologists measure precipitation and stream flows. Generally precipitation starts in late fall.

For California and specifically, Santa Clara County, the water year is off to a good start. Our first set of showers came at the end of November. Late November and early December storms dumped a healthy amount of snow over the Sierra Nevada mountain range. On Dec. 17, the snowpack was measured at about 82 percent of average. For Californians, this snowpack is an essential lifeline. Snowmelt feeds streams and helps supply the state’s reservoirs. And locally, nearly half of our water is imported from this original source.

This is an encouraging start, but our storm season has just begun and there’s no crystal ball to reveal whether we’ll receive enough rainfall or snow for our water supply needs.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District works to ensure a reliable water supply for Silicon Valley for a healthy, life, environment and economy. The water district manages groundwater basins and operates 10 surface reservoirs, three drinking water treatment plants, and a water purification center to ensure safe, clean drinking water for Santa Clara County.

Since the recent historic drought, the water district’s diligent water management and the community’s outstanding conservation efforts have allowed our groundwater levels to return to pre-drought levels. Since 2015, Santa Clara County residents have continued to save water by over 20 percent compared to 2013 usage. In the last two years, the water district has been able to replenish our groundwater aquifers with imported water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta and local rainfall captured and diverted to percolation ponds and streams throughout the county.  In fact, the water district has been able to refrain from filling ponds now that groundwater basin levels have rebounded. Continuing these efficient management and conservation efforts allows us to be prepared for the next drought.

Heading into the winter season, our reservoirs are at 26 percent of capacity and at 60 percent of the historic average for this time of year. It’s not unusual to see the reservoirs low at the start of the rainy season following a dry summer period. The first few rainstorms of the season help saturate the ground, and as winter progresses our reservoirs should start capturing more rainfall runoff. Our precipitation gauges have measured a range of rainfall throughout our county from 2 inches to up to 10 inches in the hills, with a central San Jose gauge measuring just under 3 inches to date.

As a reminder, be sure to turn off your irrigation systems for the winter season. For more tips on how you can save water visit our conservation programs and rebate pages.

You can keep up-to-date with local reservoir levels and precipitation measurements on






  1. We are very concerned once again about the prolific weeds growing along the Los Alamitos and Calero Creek Trails, as well as dead brush and trees. It’s green now but will turn brown soon enough and bring fire danger to the Woodside of Almaden neighborhood and the homes along Greystone. Does SCVWD have ANY plans to manage this long-term? Just mowing them down in July is not a solution, and when a concerned neighbor took matters into his own hands last summer he was severely chastised by SCVWD (even though the City of San Jose suggested forming a volunteer group to manage them!) I have been bringing this up for YEARS and feel like I am being brushed off as paranoid, but Coffey Park probably never thought they would go up in flames, either. We loved this area when we moved here in 1997-the trail was a big draw- but now live in fear 7 months of the year.


    1. Ms. Howe,
      Thank you for your note regarding brush and tree maintenance along creeks. We understand your concern about safety, and appreciate the opportunity to let you and your neighbors know what we do to keep areas safe and what we need to take into consideration.

      Safety is important to the Santa Clara Valley Water District, and that is why we comply with rules and regulations set forth by fire experts in local and state fire codes. Chief among these is a state government code (Section 51182) that requires maintaining a firebreak within 30 feet of occupied structures on our property. Near trails, which are usually maintained by the cities they traverse, that generally requires a 10-foot firebreak on either side of the trail that crosses our property. So, in certain areas, we mow grasses and weeds when they are higher than 6 inches, and we remove flammable vegetation within 30 feet of an occupied structure, such as a house or garage.

      While we comply with fire regulations, we also must comply with state and federal wildlife regulations. Protecting and caring for the environment that makes this area such a beautiful place to live is a key part of the water district’s mission. What may seem like a useless dead tree can actually provide habitat for wildlife – some of it endangered or threatened – that call our natural areas home. When safe, standing dead tree trunks and downed wood are left in the system to provide this habitat. Removing trees that do not pose a hazard requires special permits that take into account the habitat and safety of the area.

      We do also work with our partners to manage vegetation on land that isn’t in our jurisdiction. For instance, in November of last year, the water district and the City of San Jose conducted a joint project to manage trees deemed potentially hazardous to trail users on the Alamitos Creek Trail. Approximately 40 trees were identified along the trail between Mazzone Drive and McKean Road, and work included pruning dead limbs overhanging the trail and removing dead trunks that were leaning towards the trail.

      If you would like to learn more about the water district’s activities, please see our website at



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