Santa Clara Co. to continue water restrictions

June 16, 2010 12:22:00 PM PDT
Silicon Valley water customers will continue to face mandatory water restrictions this summer, despite above-average rainfall.

Some board members at the Santa Clara Valley Water District worry that without the word "mandatory," the public won't pay as much attention to maintaining conservation habits. On Tuesday, the board voted 5-2 to reject a staff recommendation for a "voluntary" conservation program.

This is the only Bay Area water agency to demand mandatory restrictions for this summer -- calling for a new 10 percent mandatory conservation, over its previous 15 percent plan.

This is happening despite that the district's 10 reservoirs in the Silicon Valley region are brimming. It may seem conflicting since this was the wettest spring since 2006. For example, San Jose's rainfall is 114 percent of normal.

Part of the reasoning is that last summer the district spent $1 million on public outreach about water usage and conservation, and the board says it doesn't want those efforts to go to waste, especially since the next year may not be so rainy. The Santa Clara Valley Water District provides water to 13 retailers from its reservoirs, wells and San Francisco Bay's delta.

The district has no legal authority to increase home water bills or issue fines for excessive water usage, so its decision to continue restrictions could be ignored by customers. It will be up to the water retailers and local cities whether to enforce or disregard the district's call for 10 percent mandatory conservation.

Critics believe that if residents are always asked to conserve, they won't take it as seriously when there really is a drought period. The district will re-evaluate its mandatory call in three months.


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