Water rationing in Santa Clara is underway

February 10, 2009 8:12:14 PM PST
Rain is in the forecast for this week, but that doesn't change plans for mandatory water cut backs in the South Bay. The Santa Clara Valley Water Board decided on Tuesday they'll begin next month. Critics complain the announcement is premature since the rainy season isn't over.

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The reality of another drought year has just hit the 4th Street Pizza Company in San Jose. Mandatory water conservation is on the horizon.

"We don't overuse in the dishwashing or anything like that. So there's really not a whole lot of room to tighten up in a place like this," says Rich Daly, a 4th Street Pizza co-owner.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District says everyone will have to tighten up. One board member wanted mandatory conservation to begin immediately.

"Mandatory water conservation now. Not in March, not in April, my vote is now. Thank you," says Richard Santos, a water district board member.

Santos did not get his wish. The district staff and water re -sellers favored a wait and see approach.

"There's nothing worse than having to call for mandatory draconian measures and having it pour. We do then, is we lose the public trust," says Tony Eulo, with the Morgan Hill Conservation Program.

After a two-hour debate the board decided to send the message that with just 55-percent of average rainfall this season, there will be mandatory cut backs. A vote on March 24 will determine just how much customers will have to conserve.

"Whether it's 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent and we'll know more in terms of the weather and take action at that time," says Rosemary Kamei, a water district board member.

There is a caveat to the board's decision. If by some miracle there is a heavy rainfall between now and March 24th the mandatory water conservation will be rescinded.

Two board members think the early action sends a mixed message.

"So what are we going to do for the next 45 days, we're going to worry about it. People are going to be confused and concerned," says Tony Estremera, a water district board member.

The board majority says there is no confusion. Odds are mandatory water conservation will become official next month so get ready.

The water situation is in the South Bay is very serious. Right now, the district's reservoir system is holding less than half its capacity. Anderson, the largest reservoir, is at 63-percent of normal, and Almaden reservoir is at only 12-percent of capacity.

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