Millions of South Bay residents being asked to cutback, conserve water

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In a message to customers across the South Bay, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is amplifying its call to cutback and conserve.

On Tuesday night, Valley Water's Board of Directors voted on ways to address the region's water use. The board considered efforts to combat back-to-back dry winters and current drought conditions, taking recommendations from the Water Conservation and Demand Management Committee.

"Once you have one dry winter, you can survive through that," Valley Water media and public relations supervisor, Matt Keller told ABC7 News. "But after a couple of dry winters, then you really have to take a look at your water supply outlook."

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Keller with Valley Water said currently, groundwater levels are normal. However, with drought conditions getting even more serious, he said action is needed now.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Santa Clara County is in a severe drought. With conditions so dry, Valley Water's Board of Directors voted unanimously to double the price it pays homeowners to use drought-tolerant landscaping. The Landscape Rebate Program will see an increased incentive, from $1.00 a square foot, to $2.00.

"In the end, it's going to save you water. It's going to save you money," Keller explained. "And it's going to be good for Santa Clara County and our water supply."

Beyond doubling the monetary incentive, the board also decided to increase the call for a voluntary reduction in water use from 20-percent to 25-percent, compared to 2013.

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"Residents have done a good job of meeting that call," Keller shared. "And over the last several years, they've saved about 20-percent of their water compared to 2013."

A big challenge this year, the region is down a critical water supply resource. Anderson Reservoir was recently drained for a massive seismic retrofit project.

Keller shared, "Once we're done with that, then we'll be able to store more water here in Santa Clara County."

Meantime, this means storage at the county's largest aboveground reservoir is now unavailable for approximately 10 years.

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"So now that that's gone, that just means that we're going to have to buy more water outside of the county and bring it in," Keller continued.

As it stands, Keller explained the county imports about 50-percent of its water from outside the area to meet the region's needs and to make sure groundwater levels stay normal. One such source is a surplus water supply near Bakersfield.

Where Valley Water might rely on some state allocations, Keller said those allocations were dramatically reduced this year because of drought conditions.

"So, we're going to have to go to our partners and purchase water outside of Santa Clara County and bring that water in as opposed to getting it from the state," he said.

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