South Bay water users may need to conserve more

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Sunday, February 1, 2015
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Santa Clara Valley Water District may ask users to double their conservation efforts.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- As our dry January moves into February, the South Bay's water district is preparing to ask consumers to double their conservation efforts. And the reason has less to do with the above-ground reservoirs, which are far below capacity, than stored water in the ground.

In a normal year, recharge ponds collect rainfall and runoff. The water percolates through the soil and is stored underground. But the ongoing drought has lowered groundwater levels about 30 feet over the past 13 months. And a bone dry January isn't helping.

"Based on the modeling, our groundwater reserves would drop into what we're calling the critical stage at the end of 2015, and if that happened, our staff would recommend a 20 to 40 percent reduction," said Jerry De La Piedra with Santa Clara Valley Water District.

40 percent would be double the highest existing voluntary reduction goal. There's a direct correlation between conservation and how much groundwater supply is needed.

"If you reduce the demand, then we're not pumping as much out, especially when we have a finite supply of local water from our local reservoirs -- finite supply of surface water from our local reservoirs and imported sources," said Aaron Baker with Santa Clara Valley Water District.

In 2014, cities and water retailers set goals of 10 to 20 percent. Morgan Hill customers came closest at 19 percent, while Santa Clara residents achieved 10 percent-- just half of that city's goal. Can people double their conservation?

"How am I going to do it? By not using the dishwasher and washing once a week," said Gloria Gomez of San Jose.

NASA scientists plan a weekend launch of a new satellite to map soil moisture. Part of its mission will be to provide data to study drought patterns in California. One thing it may detect is drier lawns as water users face a call to reduce consumption.

The water district says it wants to monitor the situation on a month-to-month basis. It wants to impose greater conservation goals if necessary, but not prematurely in case we get some last-season rain.

For full coverage on the drought, click here.

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