South Bay reservoir still critically low, despite heavy rain

Friday, December 12, 2014
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With all of this heavy rain, residents in Santa Clara County are wondering if this will help get them out of a drought

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- After days of rain, many are asking if the drought is over. Experts say not quite yet.

The Lexington Reservoir in Santa Clara County is still critically low, despite the recent rain.

At Guadalupe Creek the runoff is actually gushing at a pretty good pace. The problem is not all of that water is actually making it into the reservoirs. Water managers had predicted the storm would supply the South Bay with 10,000 acre-feet of water, but they wound up with about half that.

When we asked Nancy Nicholas for an interview, we had no idea we'd be helping her fill sandbags.

"I have a door that I should have repaired over the summer and I need to just block a little area," San Jose resident Nancy Nicholas said. When asked what she did during Thursday's heavy rainstorm, she said, "I used a towel."

Admittedly, it's hard to think about flooding when you've been so busy with the drought.

"I've installed low flow shower heads on my showers. We have three bathrooms," San Jose resident Roberto Muniz said.

Two days ago, Muniz could have picked up sand bags, but now he's stuck filling his own, after they ran out.

"We had about 12 cars deep, pretty much all day yesterday as well as the day before, just preparing for the storm," sand bag program manager Mark Wander.

There's so much water, you might think the drought is over, but you'd be wrong.

"That rainfall did not produce as much inflow or runoff into the reservoirs as we had originally expected," Aaron Baker from the Santa Clara Valley Water District said.

San Jose's Lexington Reservoir is still critically low. In before and after shots from the water district, you can see the storm helped, but the dry ground soaked up so much, the reservoir only rose by three percent. And the reservoir is only the first step.

"We need to work to replenish the groundwater basin and even tough it is raining outside, it will take time to replenish that groundwater basin," Baker said.

The Santa Clara Valley gets its water from underground. Water is released into ponds, where it soaks into the aquifer. And you can see the ponds are still dry, but there's another storm coming.

"I say bring it on, but a little steadier. Slow and steady. When people get flooded, it's not right," Nicholas said.

Now, here's the good news -- regardless of how and when that rain falls, the next storm will have more impact on the drought because now, the ground's already wet, so more water will run off into the reservoirs.

Also, while those ponds have been empty, the water district has cleaned them out, leaving a nice soft surface at the bottom for the water to soak into the aquifer faster than before.

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