Balancing water supply and environmental stewardship

More than 20 years ago, Valley Water’s mission was expanded by the state legislature to include environmental stewardship. We fulfill this mission while also balancing the continuous need to deliver a reliable supply of safe, clean water to Santa Clara County’s 2 million residents and businesses, and careful management of our groundwater aquifers, even amid a severe drought emergency.

Valley Water’s environmental stewardship efforts are extensive with many efforts underway, including work on the One Water Plan. The plan is Valley Water’s effort to integrate its mission of water supply, flood protection and stream stewardship into one vision for planning and prioritization. By approaching water resources planning holistically, Valley Water ensures that the three arms of its mission are balanced in the years to come.

Over the last two decades, Valley Water has made substantial investments to advance its water supply and environmental stewardship programs. Using cutting-edge technologies to monitor fish, wildlife, precipitation, streamflow and other environmental factors, Valley Water and its team of biologists respond adaptively to enhance aquatic and riparian habitats for fish and other species. Valley Water environmental stewardship highlights include:

  • Committing $126 million for fisheries in Stevens Creek, Coyote Creek and the Guadalupe River Watersheds through the Fish and Aquatic Habitat Collaborative Effort.
  • Removing over 20 barriers to fish migration in streams throughout Santa Clara County.
  • Restoring natural stream channel on 2,100 feet of Stevens Creek to enhance habitat for steelhead.
  • Installing state-of-the-art cameras and tracking tags to better understand how steelhead migrate and survive in Coyote, Guadalupe and Stevens Creek Watersheds.
  • Installing 35 alert radios to enable round-the-clock stream gauge monitoring of critical flow conditions.

To ensure we’re balancing fish and aquatic habitat needs with Valley Water’s water supply operation, the Fish and Aquatic Habitat Collaborative Effort (FAHCE) was established in 1997 to improve passage for fish migration and enhance the habitat for fish in the watersheds we manage. FAHCE is the product of many years of negotiation and scientific study among Valley Water, environmental groups focused on fisheries protection and state and federal government wildlife agencies. Valley Water’s advances in FAHCE implementation include:

  • Releasing the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) of FAHCE measures in the Guadalupe River and Stevens Creek watersheds in June 2021.
  • Removing 12 out of 18 priority fish migration barriers.
  • Developing an innovative computer model to evaluate fish habitat improvements.
  • Recently completed a $1 million replacement of the City of San José’s Singleton Road crossing using Valley Water funds, removing a major barrier to fish migration.
  • Providing flows to benefit fish in coordination with state and federal resource agencies.

Valley Water is proud of the work it does to serve the mission of environmental stewardship. As we continue through a severe drought emergency, the efforts mentioned above will help enable us to provide healthy habitat and safe, clean water, not only for our residents but for the native species that call Santa Clara County home.

3 comments

  1. There should be a Final EIR by now? No mention here about the fact that this was initiated by a lawsuit and under the settlement agreement the program was supposed to be finished 10 years ago?

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    1. Valley Water is actively meeting with the Initialing Parties and the FAHCE Adaptive Management Team to address the large number of comments received on the draft environmental impact report published in June 2021. The final report is scheduled to be released in summer 2023.

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