New radar system announced

Goal is to better predict big storms


Valley Water joined local, regional, state, and federal agencies this week to unveil a new high-resolution radar to better forecast “extreme weather events.”

The first permanent “X-Band Radar” in the San Francisco Bay Area’s rainfall information system, the radar located on top of the Penitencia Water Treatment Plant in San Jose is the cornerstone in a new network of high-resolution, low-elevation radars.

Valley Water officials said the new radar locations will improve weather forecasting of atmospheric rivers that have produced monster rainfalls and flooding in recent years.

“Today marks a great milestone in a collaboration that will provide vital information during storms,” said Valley Water CEO Norma Camacho. “We and our partners across the region are committed to helping keep our communities safe from floods.”

Forecasting rainfall from powerful Pacific storms can be a challenge for meteorologists due to the complex terrain of the San Francisco Bay Area, according to weather professionals.

Precipitation from these storms often forms at low altitudes, well below the range of existing radars. Once complete, the new radar network will consist of four X-Band Radars and one C-Band Radar placed at strategic locations across nine counties in the Bay Area.

“We are aligning our regional expertise and resources to provide critical information for flood emergency response and integrated water management tailored to a specific area’s needs,” said Michael Anderson, state climatologist for the California Department of Water Resources.

“This is an excellent demonstration of our Weather-Ready Nation initiative, to help communities prepare for extreme weather, water, and climate events,” added Rob Cifelli of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will monitor the system, designed by Colorado State University.

The system will provide improved data for forecasting, which will assist water managers, reservoir operators, wastewater plant managers and emergency responders to make operational and safety decisions during extreme weather events.

The new radar system was funded in 2016 by a $20 million grant from the California Department of Water Resources and awarded to Sonoma Water and partners from Santa Clara to Sonoma.Valley Water manages an integrated water resources system that includes drinking water supplies, flood protection and stewardship of streams in Santa Clara County. Valley Water manages 10 dams and surface water reservoirs, three water treatment plants, an advanced recycled water purification center, a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, nearly 400 acres of groundwater recharge ponds and more than 275 miles of streams. It provides wholesale water and groundwater management services to local municipalities and private water retailers.   

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