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.