A struggle to water the lawn comes to Santa Clara County as the drought worsens?

Santa Clara County’s largest water agency, concerned about a drop in water supplies this summer and the public’s failure to reach conservation goals, is making progress with plans to ask the county’s 2 million residents to water landscaping no more than two days a week, down from the city. Three current days.

Last June, the Santa Clara Valley Water District declared a state of emergency in the drought and asked the public to reduce water use by 15% compared to 2019 levels. Water use throughout the county by 23%.

In some of the richest areas of Santa Clara County, water use has risen even more, such as in Palo Alto, where it grew 51 percent in February compared to February 2019, or in the Forissima Hills water district in Los Altos Hills, where it grew 51 percent in February. Rose by 163% at the same time.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 13: Illustration of a lawn mower running in a yard in San Jose, California, Wednesday, October 13, 2021. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)

Now that California is entering its third year of drought with hot summer months ahead of us, water managers are trying to do more to set off the alarm.

“Our reservoirs are at record lows,” said Arun Baker, vice president of operations for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, on Monday. Our imported water supply is low. We are looking to reduce external irrigation. We do not have enough water for green lawns. “

On Tuesday, the district council, a San Jose-based government agency, is expected to vote to upgrade its drought emergency decision, and order the public to water the landscaping and lawns no more than twice a week. Typically, outdoor irrigation accounts for 50% of summer water use for residence, so a cut from three days a week to two days can reduce overall water use by 15% or more.

But whether to impose laws twice a week will depend on each local city and water company. And so is the decision whether to enforce the new rules. To date, no city in Santa Clara County has issued fines to residents who farm too often, Baker said.

The county is asking people who see waste water to call (408) 630-2000 or send an email to waterwise@valleywater.org to report it. A county staff member will visit the property owner and send a letter reminding him of the rules. Their city or water company, which may impose fines.

Another big challenge: Cities and private water companies across Silicon Valley have very different rules. Since last summer, residents have been receiving conflicting messages.

San Jose Water Company, a private company that serves one million residents in San Jose, Los Gatos, Campbell and other areas, is asking residents to limit water use to two days a week for months. But just a few miles away, the cities of Santa Clara and Sunnyville allow irrigation three days a week. And there are no restrictions on days a week in Mountain View or Palo Alto.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District, a wholesale water supplier to 13 cities and private companies, says it will step up efforts to bring them all to the same page.

“We have a consistent message of two days a week, which we have not had until now, if we can hit so hard with our education and outreach, we do think we will succeed,” said Kirsten Straub, an assistant officer in the district’s water supply division. “But it’s hard to communicate something that is different everywhere.”

While water use in February was troubling, conservation news is not entirely bad: Santa Clara Valley residents have cumulatively reduced water use by 6% from June 2021 to February 2022 compared to the same period in 2019.

Despite the light rain across the bay area, the signs of drought continue to worsen. On Monday, Cal Fire officials suspended all landscape waste burning like branches and leaves for outdoor living in Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, in the western provinces of Stanislaus and San Joaquin, due to the growing fire hazard.

The announcement came a month earlier than last year, so it occurred on May 13th.

“The fire season just seems to be over and it’s here again,” said Chuck Carroll, commander of a Cal Fire battalion in San Jose.

“Things have not yet completely dried up, but yesterday we had some vegetation fires,” he added. “Usually we don’t get anything so early.”

After wet October and December, rains across California ceased. January, February and March have been the three driest months of their kind in Northern California in recorded history, since records began in 1849.

Currently, 93 percent of California is in severe drought – up from 69 percent a year ago – according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly report released by the federal government and the University of Nebraska.

Sierra Nevada’s snowstorm, typically covering about a third of the country’s waters, on Monday was only 22% of its historical average for that date.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 13: Sprinkler Lawns operates in San Jose, California, Wednesday, October 13, 2021. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)

On March 28, Governor Gavin Newsum ordered statewide water agencies to tighten conservation rules, even though he chose not to impose fines on water conservation targets for cities that failed to meet them, as former Gov. Jerry Brown did during the recent California drought. 2015.

Santa Clara County is in worse shape than many parts of the state, largely because its largest reservoir, Anderson, near Morgan Hill, is being drained for earthquake repairs by federal order. On Monday, the 10 reservoirs owned by the Santa Clara Valley Water District were filled with only 24.8%.

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