Each year, the nation takes a week to celebrate something you can’t see, but that you use every day – groundwater. This year, Groundwater Awareness Week takes place from March 10-16. We’ll share interesting information and tips on conserving and protecting groundwater through social media.
Here in Santa Clara County, groundwater is an important part of our water supply picture, with our groundwater basins holding more than twice the amount of water in all 10 of our surface reservoirs combined.
In fact, Valley Water got its start 90 years ago as a way to make sure our groundwater supply was sustainable. Back then, water was being pumped out of the ground faster than it was getting replaced, which led to land subsidence, where the land surface sinks, and salt water from the bay entering shallow groundwater. Before we halted subsidence in 1970, parts of San José sank 13 feet! We still work hard today to prevent subsidence and saltwater intrusion.
We do that by making sure we don’t overpump from our groundwater basins. Nearly half the water used each year in Santa Clara County is pumped from groundwater by water retailers and thousands of private well owners. Together they pump more than can be replaced naturally, so Valley Water uses local surface water as well as water we import from outside the county to refill our aquifers and ensure there’s enough water to meet the needs of residents, businesses and agriculture. Valley Water also works to reduce demand on the groundwater supplies through providing alternative water supplies, such as treated and recycled water, and through our water conservation programs.
The quality of that water is important, too. Industrial spills, leaking underground fuel tanks, fertilizers and other sources of contamination threaten our groundwater supplies. That’s why Valley Water has a comprehensive monitoring program as well as programs for the construction and destruction of wells, and we coordinate with land use and regulatory agencies to help minimize the risk of groundwater contamination and ensure groundwater remains a viable local resource now and in the future.
All this work to manage our groundwater and keep it safe and clean are mostly paid through groundwater production charges. Groundwater management costs and benefits are documented each year in Valley Water’s Water Utility Enterprise Protection and Augmentation of Water Supplies Report.
Valley Water’s comprehensive programs to sustain local groundwater are described in the Board-adopted 2016 Groundwater Management Plan.
Groundwater continues to be an essential resource that helps ensure water supply reliability for Santa Clara County.