As we’ve seen in recent years, the weather is becoming more extreme with longer and more severe droughts. Today, Santa Clara County is in extreme drought, and the critically dry conditions have jeopardized our state’s water supplies.
In response, the Valley Water Board of Directors on June 9, 2021 declared a water shortage emergency condition in Santa Clara County. We are also calling for mandatory water use restrictions. On June 22, Santa Clara County followed our board’s action and proclaimed a local emergency related to the extreme drought conditions.
Valley Water has been preparing for drought by investing in technology and infrastructure. Some of these efforts include the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project, upgrading and maintaining our pipelines and water treatment plants, promoting our many conservation rebates and programs, and expanding the use of recycled and purified water.
Valley Water’s strategy to ensure a reliable supply of safe, clean water for today and future generations is outlined in our Water Supply Master Plan 2020. One of the key projects listed in the Water Supply Master Plan is the Delta Conveyance Project, the state of California’s proposed plan to improve the infrastructure that carries water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Santa Clara County relies on water imported through the Delta for about 40% of its water supply. This imported supply becomes even more critical to our water supply portfolio during droughts, providing almost all the water to our three drinking water treatment plants. The Delta water system is outdated and at risk of failing due to events such as sea-level rise, earthquakes, and flooding.
Valley Water is working with other public water agencies in the Bay Area and across California to protect and maintain these vital supplies.
The Delta Conveyance Project aims to modernize this system and protect California’s water supply from these risks. The Delta Conveyance Project also aims to provide greater flexibility to how water is diverted, which has the potential to improve protection for at-risk species that live and migrate through the Delta.
The Delta Conveyance Project would feature two intake structures on the Sacramento River near the City of Sacramento, where water would be diverted through state-of-the-art fish screens to a single tunnel that would carry the water underneath the Delta to pumps in the south.
The Valley Water Board of Directors voted to support the proposed Delta Conveyance Project in October 2019 and voted to provide funding for some of the preliminary environmental review, planning, and design costs in November 2020.
After the environmental review and preliminary planning process, which is projected to be complete in 2024, Valley Water will decide whether to participate in the project.
Valley Water is also evaluating other projects that would help our communities weather future droughts, including:
- The proposed expansion of Pacheco Reservoir in south Santa Clara County as an option to increase the amount of water we can store for emergencies.
- Potential partnerships for water storage outside our county, including the Sites Reservoir Project in the Sacramento Valley and the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project in Contra Costa County
- Expanding our use of recycled and purified water, which is an important drought-resilient, locally controlled supply
Valley Water is also fixing Anderson Dam so it can safely withstand a large earthquake. On July 7, Valley Water held a groundbreaking event to kick off construction of a larger outlet tunnel that will allow us to better manage water levels in Anderson Reservoir. Once the tunnel is complete, Valley Water will begin rebuilding the dam and spillway.
These efforts bolster our drought resilience and better prepare us for the current and future droughts. A reliable supply of safe, clean water is crucial for public health and the economy.
To read more about the Delta Conveyance Project, please visit the California Dept. of Water Resources website at water.ca.gov/Programs/State-Water-Project/Delta-Conveyance.