Dead Lawn Drought

The Valley Water Board of Directors is set to enact a mandatory water reduction.

The Valley Water Board of Directors is scheduled to act on staff recommendations at a special Wednesday (June 9) meeting calling for a declaration of emergency water shortage conditions in Santa Clara County and a 15% mandatory water use reduction compared to 2019.

The staff recommendations come on the heels of the second driest back-to-back winter seasons on record, which resulted in drastic reductions to Valley Water’s allocations of imported water from the State Water Project and Central Valley Project.

Compounding the water shortage challenges, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ordered Anderson Reservoir to be drained for public safety as Valley Water reinforces the dam. This means the county’s largest drinking water reservoir will be down – and unable to store drinking water – for the next 10 years as construction takes place on the Anderson Dam Tunnel Project and Seismic Retrofit Project.

“A couple horrible things are happening all at the same time,” said Gary Kremen, district board vice chairman and director for District 7, which includes Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. “No. 1, our primary storage, equal to all the other reservoirs in the county combined, is at 3%, so it’s 90% empty. We’ve been ordered by the federal government to empty it due to seismic restrictions. No. 2, we’re having trouble buying water on the open market because everyone else is buying it at the same time. So not only buying it – the price is about 10 times what it was two years ago – but actually transferring it, going through the regulatory process.”

Speaking at a press conference today (June 7), Kremen said it will be up to individual cities and water distributors, such as the California Water Service Company, to consider enforcement and possible fines for overuse. He clarified that much of the residential use reduction being asked has to do with water for landscaping.

“The health and safety water (use), water for bathing and cooking – 50 gallons per person per day. No one’s asking anyone to go below that at all,” Kremen said.

Agency officials said they plan to launch a “robust” campaign to educate the public on ways they can conserve water. 

Valley Water also offers various rebates, surveys and free gear to help residents and businesses save water and money, including the Landscape Rebate Program.

For more information, visit watersavings.org.