Conservation and Purified Water, Together, Our Future is Drought-Proof

By Director Gary Kremen, Representative for District 7

The latest atmospheric river to pass through Santa Clara County brought several inches of much-needed rain. Still, it resulted in only a small increase in the water levels of our reservoirs, and despite the rain, we continue to be in an extreme drought.

Santa Clara County, home to almost 2 million people and the economic hub for our region, depends on imported water, with over half our water supply coming from outside the county. But during times of drought, those supplies get cut to just what we need for public health and safety–far less than we would get under normal conditions. The increase in the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is making headlines, but since we don’t know if it will last through the spring -which it did not last year-, we are still preparing to rely more heavily on our groundwater supplies, increasing the risk of wells drying up and the land sinking (subsidence).

As we deal with the impacts of climate change and more frequent droughts, we must remember that we are in this together. Although it was a very wet month this year, we met our water conservation goal of 16% over 2019 levels during October. The whole community pulled together to cut back on water use, and we truly appreciate the collective effort!

To help keep that trend going, Valley Water offers a variety of free tools and rebates to help homeowners, residents, farmers, and businesses conserve water. At Valley Water, we are also making investments in infrastructure and technology that will help ensure there is enough safe, clean water for all our communities. One solution we are pursuing is increasing our county’s use of recycled and purified water, a drought-proof and locally controlled water source.

Valley Water’s Board of Directors is committed to expanding that effort through the Purified Water Project. Earlier this month, we directed staff to work with the City of Palo Alto in developing an advanced water purification facility at the former Los Altos Treatment Plant site. When completed, this project would provide at least 10 million gallons per day of high-quality water to supplement our groundwater recharge efforts. We are also engaged in ongoing discussions with the City of San Jose to expand the existing Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center on Zanker Road.

We invite you to learn more about the science behind advanced purified recycled water. Visit watersavings.org to book a free virtual tour of our state-of-the-art water purification center and learn about our water conservation programs and rebates. Please get in touch with us at SpeakersBureau@valleywater.org if your group or organization would like to schedule a presentation on ways to water use at home or work during this extreme drought and how you can get a rebate.

With conservation and purified water, together, our future can be drought-proof.

6 comments

    1. Thank you for reaching out.

      The purified water that Valley Water is proposing to utilize in Santa Clara County is not sold in grocery stores.

      Valley Water is looking to increase our county’s use of recycled and purified water, which provides a drought-resilient, locally controlled water source. Currently, we use recycled water for landscape, industrial and agricultural uses. But we want to take the next step by using purified water to replenish groundwater basins in Santa Clara County and diversify our drinking water supply.
      Recycled water generally refers to municipal wastewater that has been cleaned and meets state requirements for industrial, agriculture and landscape reuse. Recycled water is distributed in purple pipes.

      Purified water is highly treated recycled water that has gone through additional advanced treatment and disinfection to meet and exceed state and federal drinking water standards.

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      1. I have been encouraged by the long use of the purple line recycled water for ball fields, park areas, etc. The current efforts for recycled and purified water is great but needs to be greatly expanded. Our target amount should be much higher.
        My household did another action to reduce our water use as my daughter, husband and grandson moved to Tennessee after many years in Sunnyvale. Yes, water use, electricity use and garbage pickups greatly reduced. Now I’m downsizing stuff for selling the home and reducing impacts even more. –HKW

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  1. Instead of using boat loads of money to remove the pooh from my sewer water in order for it to be “drinkable”, why don’t you raise the damn dams so we can capture the rains when they come. And they do come, just because there is a drought now doesn’t mean it didn’t flood in 2017 and will again rain more than we can catch and store because you’ve wasted time and money building “state of the art” facilities to process my dirty bath water for human consumption.

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    1. Valley Water is working on several fronts to increase our county’s water supply and water storage.
      One solution to drought is increasing our county’s use of recycled and purified water, which provides a drought-resilient, locally controlled water source. Currently, we use recycled water for landscape, industrial and agricultural uses. But we want to take the next step by using purified water to replenish groundwater basins in Santa Clara County and diversify our drinking water supply.
      Valley Water’s short-term goal is to produce up to 11,000 acre-feet per year of purified water that will help replenish our groundwater aquifers by 2028. That’s enough water to serve about 50,000 households of three people each year in Santa Clara County.
      On Tuesday, Dec. 14, the Valley Water Board of Directors approved a staff recommendation to finalize needed agreements with the City of Palo Alto to allow Santa Clara County to expand its use of purified water, a drought-proof water source. This action will enable Valley Water to build a new, advanced water purification center in Palo Alto to replenish our county’s groundwater.
      Our agency continues to evaluate 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. We are gathering input from our community, and our Board will consider the costs and environmental factors as we assess the project.
      We are also engaged in 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.
      Fixing Anderson Dam so it can safely withstand a large earthquake remains a top priority. We expect to begin construction this year on a larger outlet tunnel which 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.
      Upon completion, Valley Water will be allowed to fill Anderson Reservoir to it’s capacity of 90,000 acre-feet of water. For the past few years Anderson was limited to 58% of its capacity because of seismic concerns.
      Valley Water is also taking action during this drought emergency by withdrawing previously banked water supplies, purchasing emergency water from our partners, and aggressively increasing conservation measures to help meet demand and support our groundwater basins.

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