State and local agencies gave water users across drought-stricken California one week’s notice before new, in some cases unprecedented, water restrictions take effect.
On the same day, May 24, that the State Water Resources Control Board and the Santa Clara Valley Water District adopted tough restrictions on water use, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor adopted its own strongly worded statement encouraging compliance with the new regulations, as California grapples with a new normal climate that’s drier and hotter – with even greater wildfire risks in the months ahead.
“Santa Clara County is experiencing a drought emergency,” Valley Water Chair Pro Tem John L. Varela said in a statement. “We must all take immediate actions to reduce water use and protect our current and future water supplies.”
In response to a March 28 executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom, the state water board on May 24 adopted an emergency water conservation regulation “that will ensure more aggressive conservation by local water agencies across the state.”
Also on Tuesday, Valley Water, as the county water district is known, unanimously approved an enforcement program – the first of its kind in Valley Water’s history – that imposes restrictions on outdoor water use by residents and businesses and includes fines for those who ignore repeated notices to correct violations.
State, local plans differ
The new state regulation bans irrigating turf at commercial, industrial, and institutional properties, such as grass in front of or next to large industrial or commercial buildings. The ban does not include watering turf that is used for recreation or other community purposes, water used at residences or water to maintain trees.
The statewide regulation also requires all urban water suppliers,such as Valley Water and its wholesale customers, the local water districts, to implement conservation actions under Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans.
In March, the state’s urban retail water suppliers reported average water use statewide that was nearly 19% greater than in March 2020, lowering the state’s cumulative water savings since July 2021 to 3.7%.
Newsom on Monday met with leaders of the state’s largest urban water suppliers, and pressed them to take more aggressive action to combat drought.
“The severity of this drought requires all Californians to save water in every possible way,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “The regulation compels water systems and local authorities to implement a range of additional critical conservation measures as we enter the hot and dry summer months.”
Level 2 water shortage contingency plans are meant to address up to a 20% shortage of water supplies, state officials said. In addition to implementing Level 2 actions, the regulation requires urban water suppliers to fast-track supply and demand assessments to plan for potential extended dry conditions.
Here are restrictions
Beginning June 1, Valley Water will begin restricting outdoor watering in Santa Clara County, with potential fines for violators. Here are the restrictions:
- NO watering ornamental lawns more than two days a week
- NO watering any outdoor landscape between 9am and 6pm
- NO outdoor watering that results in excessive runoff onto adjacent properties, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures
- NO watering outdoors during and within 48 hours of a storm that produces at least one-quarter of an inch of rain.
“Our board did not take this action lightly,” Varela said. “While our focus will remain on education to ensure water waste is corrected, we need to take this unprecedented step to protect what little water we have.”
“Please consider letting your lawn go brown this summer — or even better, replacing it with a drought-resistant landscape,” he said. Valley Water offers substantial rebates through a Landscape Rebate Program, and residents and businesses can take advantage of conservation programs by visiting watersavings.org., he said.
The prohibitions apply to properties in Santa Clara County that receive water supplied by Valley Water – directly or indirectly. The enforcement program will complement the existing enforcement programs of our water retailers. Click here to find your water retailer.
Valley Water said it will notify those who are reported to be wasting water with an educational letter and tips on how to reduce water use. A second reported violation will result in Valley Water visiting the property and leaving a door hanger to document the violation, if possible. Valley Waterssaid it will also notify the water retailer of the opportunity for the retailer to initiate its enforcement process.
If there is a third violation, Valley Water will refer the water waste to the retailer and request the retailer begin its enforcement process. If the violation persists and the retailer does not complete enforcement, then Valley Water will issue a notice of violation and a fine.
Fines up to $10,000
Fines will escalate from $100 to $500. However, Valley Water has the authority to issue a fine up to $10,000 for extraordinary circumstances.
This local enforcement program does not apply to sports fields and grass areas that are regularly used for recreational, civic, school and community events.
The adoption of an outdoor water use enforcement program is the latest action taken by Valley Water to ensure a reliable water supply during this drought.
In June 2021, the Valley Water directors established a 15% water use reduction goal for Santa Clara County compared to 2019. Overall, residents, businesses and farmers reduced water use by 3% between June 2021 and March 2022 with no savings yet this year.
In July 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order and called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15% compared to 2020. Santa Clara County residents and businesses answered the call, and reduced water use by 9%, more than double the state average. On May 23, 2022, Gov. Newsom reinforced the need for conservation statewide as we enter the summer months.
On April 12, the Valley Water directors voted to restrict the watering of lawns and ornamental landscapes.
How to conserve
The easiest way to reduce water use, say local water experts, is by cutting back on outdoor watering, responsible for about 50% of residential water use. Valley Water is asking residents and businesses to please consider letting your lawn go brown this summer or replacing it with a drought-resistant landscape. Valley Water offers signs people can place in yards letting neighbors know they are letting their lawn go brown to save water during the drought.
Valley Water also offers substantial rebates through our Landscape Rebate Program. Residents and businesses can take advantage of our robust conservation programs by visiting watersavings.org.
If the drought emergency worsens and water supplies continue to dwindle, Valley Water said it may require additional reductions in outdoor watering.
How to report water waste
Valley Water’s water waste inspectors respond to reports of water waste and violations of local water use restrictions. To report water waste, select any of these options:
- Download the Access Valley Water app or go to Access Valley Water and select the “Conserve Water & Save with Rebates” category, or search “water waste” in the search bar.
- Call (408) 630-2000
- Email [email protected]
Include photos, cross-streets and landmarks with water waste reports whenever possible.
Santa Clara County officials Tuesday endorsed the strict water conservation rules adopted by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
“Unfortunately, this drought is not going anywhere anytime soon, and each additiona
County of Santa Clara encourages residents and businesses to conserve water as the region heads into a third drought year. The County’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a resolution that urges a 15 percent reduction in water usage compared to 2019 levels, as part of efforts to address the ongoing arid conditions.l year that we continue with these dry conditions, we find ourselves in a more dire situation,” said Board of Supervisors President Mike Wasserman. “I have faith that our community sees the urgency of our decreasing water supply and can come together to ensure we can stretch this precious resource for everyone who lives here.”
County urges conservation
“As a County administration, our operations are always carried out with sustainability at the forefront, including the way we use and conserve our water supply,” said Jasneet Sharma, Director of the County’s Office of Sustainability. “From large-scale efforts at the commercial, industrial and agricultural levels to simple steps that can be taken at home when washing dishes or watering landscapes, we all have a part to play in keeping this area livable and sustainable for our entire community.”
Since the last major drought in 2014, the County has already implemented several water conservation projects and policies that have significantly reduced water use in County facilities and unincorporated areas, among them: switching to water-conscious landscaping, using recycled water for irrigation, installing low-flow toilets and showerheads at detention centers, adopting leak detection and maintenance protocols, and establishing a native plant demonstration garden at Hellyer County Park. More information on the County’s efforts to protect and conserve water resources can be found on the Sustainability Master Plan website.