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The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors became the most recent South Bay agency to take action on shrinking water supplies, as the body on June 22 declared a local emergency due to extreme drought conditions.

“As Californians, we all know how precious water is. During the last drought, many of us learned that every drop is valuable, and we all came together to find creative new ways to conserve this incredibly important resource,” said Board of Supervisors President Mike Wasserman. “We did it before and we can do it again—every small step we can each take to stretch our water supply is critical right now.”

The “extreme drought” classification means that reservoirs are so low that the water level is inadequate for agriculture, wildlife and urban needs, says a press release from the county. Under these conditions, fire season lasts year-round and fires may occur even in typically wet parts of the state.

Earlier this month, the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s board of directors declared a water shortage emergency and imposed mandatory water usage reductions of 15% compared to 2019 levels— equivalent to a 33% reduction from 2013 water usage levels. “The County supports these conservation measures and encourages everyone in unincorporated areas to voluntarily take on similar usage reduction goals,” says the press release.

County officials pointed out that water conservation is a “collective community responsibility,” says the press release. Since the last major drought in 2014, the county has implemented water conservation projects and policies that have significantly reduced water use in county facilities and unincorporated areas.

Among these are: switching to water-conscious landscaping, using recycled water for irrigation, installing low-flow toilets and showerheads at detention centers, adopting leak detection and maintenance protocols, and establishing a native plant demonstration garden at Hellyer County Park. More information on the County’s efforts to protect and conserve water resources can be found on the Sustainability Master Plan website.  

“The reality is we live in an arid region that will continue to experience droughts. Water conservation is something we must all do together, and this includes the County and the many facilities we operate,” said Jasneet Sharma, Director of the County’s Office of Sustainability. “There are many steps that we should all take, from large scale conservation projects and household level water conservation retrofits to simple household changes like turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth. Each one is an important part of sustainability.”

Water waste restrictions

In 2015, the County approved a number of permanent water waste restrictions for unincorporated areas that continue to be in effect:

– Do not water outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff

– Do not use a hose to wash a vehicle, unless the hose is equipped with an automatic shut-off valve

– Do not use water to hose off paved areas and hardscapes, such as driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks

– Do not use water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated

– Do not water outdoor landscapes during the daylight hours of 9am and 6pm, unless using a bucket, hose equipped with an automatic shutoff valve, or low-flow drip-type irrigation system

– Fix outdoor water leaks within seven days of notification by the county

For businesses, the following water uses are prohibited (unless it’s necessary to address an immediate health or safety need, or to comply with a term or condition in a permit issued by a county, state, or federal agency):

– Service of water at a restaurant or public place where food or drinks are sold, unless upon request

– Use of non-water conserving dishwash spray valves at a restaurant or public place where food or drinks are sold

– Failure to use recycled or non-potable water for dust control or soil compaction purposes in construction activities when a source is readily available

– Installation or use of any new single pass cooling systems that circulate water only once to cool equipment before disposing the water

– Installation or use of any new non-recirculating water systems in commercial conveyor car wash systems

– Installation or use of any new non-recirculating water systems in commercial laundry systems

– Failure of a hotel, motel, or other commercial lodging establishment to provide customers with the option of declining daily towel and linen laundry services.

The county asks that all water waste complaints in unincorporated Santa Clara County be directed to the Santa Clara Valley Water District in any of the following ways:

– Drought response hotline (408-630-2000)

– Email ([email protected])

– Free app for smartphones (available at http://www.valleywater.org/avwapp/)

Rebate programs

For residents and businesses who want to do their part in saving our water, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has a number of conservation programs that offer rebates for the following:

– Converting residential or commercial high-water use landscapes to drought-friendly ones

– Installation of Graywater Laundry-to-Landscape Systems

– Equipment changes at commercial, industrial, and institutional facilities to reduce water usage

– Installation of submeters and water meters

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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