Investing today for a safe, reliable water supply in the future

Each year, the Valley Water Board of Directors adopts a fiscally responsible and balanced budget that allows our agency to provide Santa Clara County’s 2 million residents safe, clean water, flood protection and environmental stewardship.

As the county’s primary water wholesaler, Valley Water makes sure there is enough safe, clean water for homes and businesses. To pay for this task, Valley Water collects revenue, primarily water charges from well owners, agricultural water customers, water retailers and property taxes.

Most county residents do not pay a bill directly to Valley Water; instead they pay their local water retailers. However, the cost residents pay the retailers is affected by Valley Water’s cost of supplying that water.

On May 11, the Valley Water Board of Directors will consider a staff proposed budget that includes a modest rate increase of a maximum of 9.1% for fiscal year 21-22. That translates to an increase ranging from $4.30 to $4.82 per month in the water bill of an average Santa Clara County resident.

Increases in water rates now will allow our community to prepare for future unknowns like drought and other natural disasters by expanding reservoirs, increasing storm water reuse, bolstering our conservation programs and expanding the use of recycled water. Making these investments in infrastructure and technology is crucial and necessary to ensure a safe and reliable supply of water in the future.

It’s only been a few years since one of the worst droughts in California history, and experts say we’re entering another drought already. Modest rate increases will allow us to act now to ensure we have enough water to get through future dry years and historic droughts.

The money from water rates goes towards everything that Valley Water does to make sure that when you turn on the tap there is safe, clean drinking water. That work includes improvements to infrastructure such as reservoirs, pipelines and treatment plants.

Anderson Reservoir, which is the largest drinking water reservoir in Santa Clara County, is going to be drained for up to ten years so Anderson Dam can be rebuilt to better   withstand a large earthquake. Modest rate increases will ensure we still have drinking water supplies while Anderson Dam is being rebuilt.

Other efforts include:

  • Purchasing emergency water supplies. Under ordinary conditions, more than 50% of water used in Santa Clara County is brought in from outside the county. During times of drought, that percentage goes up because we need to purchase emergency water supplies to make sure we have enough water for our county.
  • Providing treated drinking water to protect our infrastructure and groundwater basins.
  • Monitoring and protecting groundwater from pollutants.
  • Operating and maintaining pipelines and pumping plants to help sustain the groundwater aquifer.

We’ve seen what’s happened when communities don’t invest in infrastructure and prepare for climate change. The recent water disaster in Texas, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the water crisis in Flint, Mich. show how important it is to have clean water for drinking and washing our hands.

These proposed rate increases are fair and equitable, with large water users paying more, while those who use less water would see minimal cost increases.

During the last fiscal year, our Board unanimously elected to forego water rate increases due to impacts of COVID on our community. The Board of Directors did not take that decision lightly, as it delayed some crucial projects.

A reliable supply of safe, clean water is crucial for public health and the economy. Our proposed budget will help Valley Water continue to invest in infrastructure and technology that will help us protect drinking water and ensure a reliable water supply, now and in the future.

2 comments

    1. Valley Water replenishes groundwater supplies using local and imported water in creeks and over 100 percolation ponds. Additional percolation ponds in suitable areas could help us refill the groundwater aquifers more quickly, but the challenge right now is that surface water supplies are very limited due to dry conditions. Valley Water continues to release surface water in creeks and some percolation ponds, however, many ponds are dry due to low surface water availability. After the 2012-2016 drought, Valley Water was able to quickly refill groundwater supplies using existing percolation ponds when adequate surface water supplies became available. With the exception of dry years, the existing ponds are very effective in keeping groundwater supplies full. However, we continue to evaluate the need for future investments in ponds or other facilities.

      While our water supplies are adequate for 2021, we don’t know how long dry conditions will last. Since most of our county is classified as being in severe drought, we’re asking for the community’s help. Our Board of Directors recently asked the community to voluntarily reduce water use by 25% compared to 2013, and we have many programs to help homeowners and businesses save water. For more information on ways to save water, please visit watersavings.org.

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