2019: A year in review

By Director Linda J. LeZotte, representative for District 4

In 2019, I had the privilege of serving as Chairperson of the Valley Water Board of Directors. As my tenure as board chairperson comes to an end, I stand proud of the many accomplishments our organization made this past year.

Valley Water’s core mission is to bring safe, clean drinking water to Santa Clara County, provide flood protection, and care for our natural environment.

When I was appointed Board Chairperson last year, my personal goal for the district was to have a net positive effect on the environment in everything that we do. Whether developing new sources of water supply or designing flood protection projects that keep our communities safe, we must consider the environmental impacts early in the process.

To meet this goal, Valley Water has proposed the Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project, which reflects Valley Water’s commitment to ensure a reliable supply of safe, clean drinking water and to protect the environment. The proposed expansion, a collaboration with the San Benito County Water District and Pacheco Pass Water District, could provide a year’s supply of water for up to 1.4 million people in an emergency.

The expanded Pacheco Reservoir would also improve habitat for the South-Central California Coast Steelhead population, which has been devastated by dry seasons and periods of drought. The expanded reservoir would provide suitable water flow and temperature to support the migration and survival of these fish.

Our environmental stewardship mission and my personal goal of a net positive effect on the environment has informed our decisions on the state’s plans to improve the infrastructure that carries water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

In September, our Board of Directors adopted a resolution to support Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to develop a single tunnel project

Valley Water expects a single tunnel will improve the reliability of our water supply in the face of climate change and provide flexibility in our infrastructure that could better address environmental needs in the Delta.

Valley Water has worked hard to make sure that we have a seat at the table to share our views about environmental protection and community engagement as deliberations on the future of the Delta move forward.

This past year will be remembered as one where Valley Water made tremendous progress toward increasing the county’s supply of recycled and purified water.

In December, our Board of Directors unanimously approved an agreement with the cities of Palo Alto and Mountain View, which includes a local, small desalination plant for recycled water, and potential for a second regional advanced water purification center.

The partnership that led to this agreement was a tremendous accomplishment by the members of the Recycled Water Committee who worked tirelessly on that effort. The partnership will help us secure a future supply of safe, clean purified drinking water that will be reliable, drought-resistant and locally controlled.

Our first water purification center, the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center, celebrated its five-year anniversary in 2019. Currently, water recycled at the advanced water purification center is blended with the existing recycled water supply produced at the neighboring San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility for non-drinking purposes.

Valley Water plans to produce up to 24,000 acre-feet per year of wastewater-turned-purified drinking water by 2028, enough to serve about 48,000 households in our county for one year. The partnership we formed with Palo Alto and Mountain View will help us achieve that goal and can serve as a blueprint for our efforts to expand recycled water throughout Santa Clara County.

Closer to home, our dedicated employees once again helped coordinate two large-scale efforts to clean up creeks in our county through California Coastal Cleanup Day and National River Cleanup Day. In October, a record 2,166 volunteers in Santa Clara County collected more than 53,297 pounds of trash and cleaned 58 miles of creeks.

These volunteers demonstrated that people can come together to keep our streams clear of harmful pollutants.

All in all, 2019 was a year of tremendous progress, and I look forward to continuing that progress in 2020 as the representative of District 4.

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