We must act now and conserve water during drought emergency

By Chair Tony Estremera, representative for District 6

Santa Clara County is in an extreme drought. This rainfall season was the driest since 1977. When combined with the 2019-20 rainfall season, it will mark the second driest two-year combination on record. 

There is no way of knowing when this drought will end. The last drought lasted five years, so we must anticipate this one will extend into 2022.

That’s why we must all act now and conserve water.

On June 9, 2021, my fellow Board Members and I declared a water shortage emergency condition in Santa Clara County. This action allows Valley Water to work with our retailers, cities and the county to implement regulations and restrictions on the delivery and use of water.

On June 22, 2021, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and executive leadership followed suit and proclaimed a local emergency related to the extreme drought conditions.

It is critical that we increase our water conservation efforts to protect local water supplies and guard against over-pumping groundwater, which increases the risk of subsidence and domestic wells going dry.

This is a serious emergency for our communities, especially if the drought extends into next year. That’s why my fellow Board Members and I also called for mandatory water use restrictions.       

Santa Clara County is dependent on imported water with at least half our water supply coming from the Delta Watershed. During critically dry years, like this year, it is significantly higher.  

Unfortunately, that water is scarce this year. By mid-May, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada dropped to historic low levels with little to no runoff to fill the state’s reservoirs.

These extremely dry conditions resulted in drastic reductions in Valley Water’s share of imported water.

Further challenging our local water supply, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered Anderson Reservoir to be drained for public safety as we strengthen the dam. This means the largest water supply reservoir in Santa Clara County is out of service while we perform this critical work.

Valley Water is responding by working on withdrawing previously stored water supplies from its out-of-county groundwater bank near Bakersfield and purchasing emergency water supplies from our partners. But these supplies are not guaranteed.

If our communities continue to use water at current rates, we will find ourselves in a dire situation in 2022. But if we achieve the water use reductions that we have called for, the water supply outlook will dramatically improve.

We are asking our communities to please look at your water-using habits and find ways to save. Some easy steps include:

  • Taking shorter showers with a water-efficient showerhead
  • Doing full loads of laundry or dishes
  • Turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving
  • Reducing outdoor watering of ornamental plants

Valley Water is here to help our communities conserve even more by offering rebates and free devices to get their homes, yards and businesses drought ready.

On average, more than 50% of water use in the average home takes place outdoors. Replacing your lawn with a water-efficient landscape can reduce your usage significantly. Our Landscape Rebate Program can help make the change. 

For more ways Valley Water can help you save water, please visit watersavings.org.

Our community responded to our calls for water conservation in the past, and we are thankful for those efforts. However, we need our communities to engage with us again and find ways to reduce their water use.

A reliable supply of safe, clean water is crucial for public health and the economy. By working together, we will get through this drought emergency.


  1. I have read for many years that California farmers use 90% of the total available water, while paying only 10% of the cost. City residents use only 10%, but pay for 90% of the cost. And further more, farmers resist using more efficient watering systems. Why do city dwellers have to bear the brunt of a drought? And farmers are growing crops that use an inordinate amount of water, ie almonds, which mostly have markets outside of California. Cities should not have to subsidize exported crops.

    What gives with that?


    1. Thank you for your inquiry and interest.

      While agriculture is a large water user in many parts of California, within Santa Clara County specifically, it makes up only about 8% of water usage. Water conservation is essential in all sectors, so Valley Water actively engages the agricultural community and offers technical services to growers to improve irrigation efficiency. Additionally, Valley Water is currently conducting an Agricultural Water Use Baseline Study to better understand current agricultural water use practices and identify opportunities to expand agricultural water conservation programs.

      As residential, business and ornamental landscape water usage accounts for over 90% of water usage in our county, Valley Water also focuses heavily on water conservation in these sectors. At WaterSavings.org, you can find information about our popular Landscape Rebate Program offered to both residents and businesses, as well as our Water Efficient Technologies rebate, which encourages businesses to find new and innovative ways to save water.

      Valley Water’s primary funding source for our activities to manage water supplies are charges imposed on groundwater and other water users. Within the areas that benefit from our activities, all groundwater pumpers (including agricultural users) must report their groundwater use and pay groundwater production charges to Valley Water. Per our District Act (our enabling legislation), the groundwater production charges for agricultural use cannot exceed 25% of charges for non-agricultural use. Non-rate related revenue is used to offset the lost agricultural water revenue and is referred to as the Open Space Credit. The purpose of this credit is to preserve the open space benefits provided by agricultural lands.

      Continued and expanded water conservation is essential to ensure continued water supply reliability. Valley Water works with all local communities, including residents, businesses, and agriculture by providing programs and resources to help everyone make conservation a way of life.


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