The Silicon Valley Voice

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City Desk: Oct 15 2014

Residents Need to Continue to Conserve Water, Says City

California is at the beginning of the 2015 water season, so we don’t know if the now-historic drought will continue a fourth year. But this month’s record high temperatures aren’t a good start.

The current drought isn’t only the worst in recorded history, it may also be the worst since Sir Francis Drake landed here in 1580, according to “The West Without Water” author and UC Berkeley paleo-climatologist Lynn Ingraham. The geologic record shows medieval droughts lasting tens and even hundreds of years.

But don’t panic yet. Running out of water isn’t on the horizon in Santa Clara, says the City’s Water and Sewer Utilities Director Chris de Groot. “One of the benefits we have in Santa Clara is multiple sources of supply.” Santa Clara can get water from both groundwater supplies and the Hetch Hetchy system, he explains. Plus, the City’s conservation efforts are working. In 25 years, Santa Clara’s population has increased 30 percent while water use decreased 40 percent.

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But don’t be complacent. The City’s goal is reducing water consumption an additional 20 percent. If the drought continues this winter, says de Groot, measures being considered go beyond the current ban on daytime irrigation (unless it’s using recycled water), and water-wasters like broken plumbing and hosing off outdoor pavement.

Those include bans on outdoor watering altogether (again, except for using recycled water). Rationing isn’t off the table, but it’s difficult to manage fairly, says de Groot. The City prefers reducing overall water use in strategic ways.

One idea is expanding the recycled water program to residential customers such as small apartment complexes and condominium developments. Santa Clara’s recycled water program is already a big success – 2.8 million gallons of success, to be exact. The City is also exploring using recycled water to recharge groundwater basins.

“Last year almost one of every five gallons of water used in the City was recycled water,” reports de Groot. The Central Park pond project was the City’s biggest recycled water project – saving 1.4 million gallons a year. However, recycled water is an entirely separate system and additional infrastructure is needed for expansion; so it’s not a short-term solution.

With California’s population expected to grow at least 10 million by 2060, the state needs to look not only at conserving water, but making it.

Desalinization is an idea that’s been around for a long time. In Carlsbad, the western hemisphere’s biggest desalinization plant is under construction and anticipated to produce 50 million gallons of water daily starting in 2016 – after 12 years of controversy and more than $1 billion in costs.

A potentially less costly solution is direct potable reuse (DPR)- sterilizing recycled water to drinkable purity. This is truly a “space-age” solution, says de Groot. “Potable re-use was done for many years in the Space Shuttle. It wasn’t cost-effective [for terrestrial use], but the technology has advanced and it’s getting cheaper.”

While Santa Clara County isn’t directly pursuing DPR projects, the new Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center uses microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light to sterilize treated wastewater to drinking water standards; although the output flows into the recycled distribution system.

Over half the money for that project ($8.25 million) came from the federal American Recovery and Re-investment Act, and the balance ($5.25 million) from the California Water Resources Department.

DPR is already used in north Texas, where severe drought has dried up some water supplies. Wichita Falls’s DPR plant now supplies about one third of Witchita Fall’s water, and tests found the water to be purer that conventional drinking water.

But for now, the local focus remains on conservation. Two of the biggest water wasters are easy to fix: leaky toilets and broken sprinklers (often overlooked if they come on at night), says de Groot. The City offers free dye test kits for toilets and flapper valves, and the Water District gives rebates for high efficiency toilets and washing machines, irrigation upgrades and replacing thirsty landscaping with drought tolerant plants.

The City has free information about conservation and drought tolerant gardening, including garden plans, at santaclaraca.gov/index.aspx?page=1431. You can also call 408-615-2000 or stop by the Water Department at City Hall. “People need to understand how serious this is,” says de Groot. “We need people to continue their conservation efforts and report water waste.”

Emails Show SCUSD Discussed Soccer Field Projects With 49ers in 2011

Soccer fields have been a hot-button issue in Santa Clara since last spring, when an uproar exploded over whether or not the Youth Soccer Park would be usable on stadium game days, and whether or not the 49ers had promised to build new soccer fields for game-day use. From that point on, increasing city soccer fields went from a strategic planning item to an urgent priority.

At the Sept. 30 Council meeting, Parks & Recreation Director Jim Teixeira outlined a proposal to work with the Santa Clara Unified School District to refurbish some district athletic fields in return for increased team access. At that meeting, candidate for Mayor Deborah Bress also made a point of putting on the record that there have never been talks with SCUSD about joint athletic field projects, as was alleged.

Current discussions are the first Parks & Rec have had with the school district, but they’re not SCUSD’s first discussions about joint projects to refurbish athletic fields. The district had such discussions with the 49ers in 2011, as the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League has more than once stated.

Email correspondence between then-Superintendent Bobbie Plough and Trustees Ina Bendis and Christine Koltermann shows that SCUSD and the 49ers discussed a possible soccer field project in August 2011.

“The signed contract between the city and the 49ers for the stadium was due July 2010 and there still is not a signed contract … which is another good reason to postpone making any type of agreement regarding the use of our fields,” Koltermann wrote to Plough and Bendis on Aug. 12, 2011. Both Bress and Koltermann have been officers and spokespersons for Santa Clara Plays Fair.

“There are city fields … plus our high school fields that are being considered,” Plough replied on Aug. 14. “I told them flat out ‘no’ to our high school fields … An agreement with the 49ers to develop and maintain fields in several other locations may be a big advantage to us.”

Bendis sent a two-page reply on Aug. 15. Noting that, “Measure J allows to the Raiders to use that stadium, too, without a vote of the people … All discussions need to stop until the 49ers ‘come clean’ about this with the city.

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The Mlnarik Law Group, Inc.

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