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Making Water Conservation a Way of Life

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With a wet winter following five years of drought, it’s tempting to revert to old water-wasteful ways.

But in California, while we never know when the next drought will arrive, we do know there will be one. To prepare for the next dry period and ensure water still flows from our taps when we turn them on, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board voted to continue its previous call for a 20 percent reduction in water use and to keep water conservation as a way of life.

The call for voluntary reduction highlights the importance of water conservation and we hope will encourage people to maintain the water-saving behaviors they adopted during the drought.

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The community is already doing that. Even with the wet winter, from January to April, the people of Santa Clara County have reduced water use by 28 percent over 2013 levels. In 2016, community efforts saved about 70,000 acre-feet of water.

That’s enough to supply two families of five for a year.

At its June 13 meeting, the board adopted the 20 percent resolution and encouraged the community and local water providers to continue their efforts to make conservation a way of life. These include considering permanent water waste prohibitions—including a maximum three-day-a-week irrigation schedule with potable water for ornamental landscapes or lawns—new investments in water use efficiency, and supporting the state’s efficiency targets and prohibitions.

An important aspect of our water supply management is monitoring the state of our groundwater, as our groundwater basins hold more water than all 10 of our surface reservoirs combined.

During the drought we were on our guard to prevent subsidence, land sinking that happens when too much water is withdrawn from the ground. Subsidence can lead to other problems, including allowing saltwater into freshwater aquifers, flooding, and infrastructure damage. The community’s water-saving has put us on track to finish 2017 with normal groundwater levels.

Although the immediate water supply picture looks good, and we take planning and conservation for the inevitable drought years seriously. Over the course of the drought, we spent about $25 million to help residents and businesses convert water-intensive turf to low-water landscaping and helping residents switch to water-efficient appliances. We currently offer rebates for irrigation equipment upgrades, landscape conversion and graywater “laundry-to-landscape” systems.

We also offer a free Water Wise Survey Program. As part of the program we provide a comprehensive evaluation of your outdoor irrigation system by trained irrigation professionals. To check indoor water use, we provide a Do-it-Yourself kit to identify opportunities for conservation and to test for leaks.

This winter’s rain has moved us out of emergency drought response mode and supplied an opportunity to make water conservation a way of life for the long term.

To take advantage of water district rebates and conservation programs, visit www.watersavings.org.

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