San Jose may enact water-rationing measures to cope with the state’s dogged drought. Under the emergency ordinance up for consideration at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, residents will have to forgo watering their yards with potable water during the day.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in January, urging the state to cut water use by 20 percent. A State Water Board mandate followed, threatening a $10,000-a-day fine on municipal water systems for violating emergency regulation.
The local ordinance up for review would echo the governor’s order, demanding a 20-percent cut in citywide water use for the duration of the drought.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD)—the wholesale provider for three water retailers in San Jose—already advised 20 percent cut in water usage for the county.
In addition to the mandates for urban water suppliers, the state board also banned using potable water for outdoor landscapes if it causes runoff, washing down sidewalks and driveways, car-washing with a hose (unless there’s a shutoff nozzle) and running a fountain unless the water re-circulates.
A group of council members put out a related memo that takes the long view. While the cutback will get San Jose through the current drought, local water agencies should explore ways to replenish groundwater with recycled water.
“The next step lies in replenishing underground aquifers with highly purified, recycled water,” according to the memo signed by council members Rose Herrera, Madison Nguyen, Kansen Chu and Sam Liccardo. “While it takes some public education to overcome the ‘yuck’ factor, recharging potable water supplies with highly purified recycled water is hardly new.”
San Jose should strike up a partnership with the SCVWD to build a facility that would replenish groundwater basins with highly purified recycled water, the memo recommends. The recent opening of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center “sets the stage,” they say, with the production of 8 million gallons per day of drinkable recycled water.
Right now, the city supplements existing water supply with 14 million gallons a day of recycled wastewater. The city’s sewage plant cleans water for re-use by commercial customers for landscaping and industrial uses.
“The potential for expanding the recycling effort long appeared limited by the use of the water for industrial purposes,” the memo says.
Orange County has replenished groundwater with recycled wastewater since 1976. El Paso has since 1985, as have some cities on the East Coast.
“Nationally, however, these examples are not common, and the process requires considerable capital investment,” council members say.
The city could also use some $500,000 set aside for conservation measures to start a youth corps to help the city and the district enforce their water-saving goals.
Also, unlike Santa Cruz, which imposed heavy fines and a “water school” for ration violators, some of San Jose’s city leaders want to create a recognition program to reward water-savers. In Santa Cruz, residents are banned from filling hot tubs and swimming pools. (Or, if they do fill a hot tub, they’re ordered to take fewer showers).
Those purple pipes that carry recycled water might not be the most efficient infrastructure either, the memo continues.
“That is, there is redundancy in our current approach of distributing recycled water in a segregated system from the potable water supply,” the council members write. “We have built out an extensive, 142-mile ‘purple pipe’ system to serve commercial users with our recycled water. lf we hold fast to the belief that recycled water should be segregated from drinking water for all time, we will spend a lot of money purifying water that will be used to water landscape. We'll spend even more money expanding the ‘purple pipe’ infrastructure, installing dual plumbing in buildings, and operating separate distribution systems, all at the expense of ratepayers, builders, and property owners.”
Meanwhile, researchers have found that the drought is so bad, it’s literally moving mountains. A new study out of Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that the Sierra Nevadas rose 15 millimeters this year because there’s less water in the ground.
Rising ground level isn't in and of itself devastating. What's devastating is how quickly our reservoirs are being depleted. NASA released satellite images of reservoirs to illustrate the withering effect of California's historic water shortage, the worst on record in 119 years.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for Aug. 26, 2014:
- The city will have to re-budget some capital improvement projects, including new construction on The Alameda and upgrades to the police headquarters.
- There’s less litter in local creeks since San Jose and other cities passed plastic bag and Styrofoam container bans.
- San Jose wants the League of California Cities to look into the “devastating environmental impacts” of illegal marijuana grows.
- A proposed ordinance would prevent a council member “from participating in a matter if he or she is the subject of that matter, or represents or supervises a person who is a party to that matter.”
- Councilman Xavier Campos asked the city to enact a three-year moratorium on any new taxi companies working at the airport. A staff analysis, however, found that the city’s taxicab market has room to grow. “Placing a moratorium on new companies reduces the incentive or need for existing companies to compete, market their services, and develop their business,” city staff responded.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260