SAN JOSE – On May 24, 2022, the Valley Water Board of Directors approved a program to enforce the restrictions on outdoor watering in Santa Clara County, which includes the potential for fines.
The water waste enforcement program, the first of its kind in Valley Water’s history, was unanimously approved on May 24, 2022. The program will impose restrictions on outdoor water use by residents and businesses and includes fines for those who ignore repeated notices to correct violations.
This program, which goes into effect June 1, 2022, enforces Valley Water’s restrictions by encouraging the public to report the following instances of water waste to Valley Water:
- Watering ornamental lawns more than two days a week.
- Watering any outdoor landscape between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- Any outdoor watering that results in excessive runoff onto adjacent properties, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures.
- Watering outdoors during and within 48 hours of a storm that produces at least one-quarter of an inch of rain.
“Our Board did not take this action lightly,” Valley Water Chair Pro Tem John L. Varela said. “While our focus will remain on education to ensure water waste is corrected, we need to take this unprecedented step to protect what little water we have. Santa Clara County is experiencing a drought emergency. We must all take immediate actions to reduce water use and protect our current and future water supplies.”
The prohibitions apply to properties in Santa Clara County that receive water supplied by Valley Water directly or indirectly. The enforcement program will complement the existing enforcement programs of our water retailers. You can locate your water retailer here.
Valley Water will notify those who are reported to be wasting water with an educational letter and tips on how to reduce water use. A second reported violation will result in Valley Water visiting the property and leaving a door hanger to document the violation, if possible. Valley Water will also notify the water retailer for the opportunity for the retailer to initiate its enforcement process.
If there is a third violation, Valley Water will refer the water waste to the retailer and request the retailer begin its enforcement process. If the violation persists and the retailer does not complete enforcement, then Valley Water will issue a notice of violation and a fine. Fines will escalate from $100 to $500. However, Valley Water has the authority to issue a fine up to $10,000 for extraordinary circumstances.
This enforcement program does not apply to sports fields and grass areas that are regularly used for recreational, civic, school and community events.
The outdoor water enforcement measures come as Santa Clara County and much of California endure the third year of drought emergency. The region and state just experienced the driest January through March on record, further threatening our water supplies. State and local reservoir levels are well below normal.
The adoption of an outdoor water use enforcement program is the latest action taken by Valley Water to ensure a reliable water supply during this drought.
In June 2021, the directors established a 15% water use reduction goal for Santa Clara County compared to 2019. Overall, residents, businesses and farmers reduced water use by 3% between June 2021 and March 2022 with no savings yet this year.
In July 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order and called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15% compared to 2020. Santa Clara County residents and businesses answered the call, and reduced water use by 9%, more than double the state average. On May 23, 2022, Gov. Newsom reinforced the need for conservation statewide as we enter the summer months.
On April 12, 2022, the directors voted to restrict the watering of lawns and ornamental landscapes in Santa Clara to no more than two days a week and avoid watering between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The easiest way to reduce water use is by cutting back on outdoor watering, responsible for about 50% of residential water use. Valley Water is asking residents and businesses to please consider letting your lawn go brown this summer or replacing it with a drought-resistant landscape. Valley Water offers signs you can place in your yard letting neighbors know you are letting your lawn go brown to save water during the drought.
Valley Water also offers substantial rebates through our Landscape Rebate Program. Residents and businesses can take advantage of our robust conservation programs by visiting watersavings.org.
If the drought emergency worsens and our water supplies continue to dwindle, Valley Water may require additional reductions in outdoor watering.
How to report Water Waste
Valley Water’s water waste inspectors respond to reports of water waste and violations of local water use restrictions. To report water waste, you may select any of these convenient options:
- Download our Access Valley Water app or go to Access Valley Water and select the “Conserve Water & Save with Rebates” category, or search “water waste” in the search bar.
- Call (408) 630-2000
- Email WaterWise@valleywater.org
Please include photos, cross-streets and landmarks with water waste reports whenever possible.