Santa Clara Valley Water District Board Approves 9.1% Rate Hike

Water rates in Santa Clara County are increasing as the county faces looming threats of drought.

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara Valley Water District board of directors unanimously approved a 9.1% rate increase for the 2022 fiscal year.

Starting July 1, 2021 until June 30, 2022, the average county resident will pay an additional $4.30 to $4.82 per month in their water bill.

Board chair Tony Estremera said the increases will help pay for additional emergency water needed to meet the demand of residents and keep groundwater at healthy levels.

“It will also allow our community to prepare for droughts and other natural disasters by bolstering our water conservation programs, expanding the use of recycled water and starting work on the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project, which will protect public safety and increase water storage capacity in the county,” Estremera said.

The rate increase will also be used to fund an environmental impact report for the $2.5 billion Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project -- an aspect that has been met with opposition from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and environmental group the Sierra Club.

The expansion project would increase the reservoir’s operational capacity from 5,500 acre-feet to up to 140,000 acre-feet, allowing the county to store more of its water locally.

Currently, the county buys 50% of its water supply and a lot of it is stored in water banks further away.

The water travels through levees and pipes to get to the county, but in the case of a serious drought, vice chair Gary Kremen said the county may not be able to access that water.

“It’s kind of like a bank account, where when you need it, you can’t get it out, which is unfortunate that it doesn’t work in critically dry years,” Kremen said.

But to Liccardo, spending $2.5 billion on a project that would not increase water supply is not a smart investment.

Last week, Liccardo encouraged the board to look at other conservation or other water supply increase projects to fund instead.

At the Tuesday meeting, resident Greg Stein asked board members why they were not considering such projects instead of the reservoir expansion.

Kremen responded that the board is looking at all the options.

“[That’s why] we got to get to this environmental impact report before we make our decisions, because the environmental impact report has alternatives,” Kremen said.

The cost of the environmental impact report is about .28 cents per month for the average household, Estremera said.

Even without the proposed Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project, water rates would still increase by 8.5% to fund additional water purchases, the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project and other conservation and sustainability programs.

At the meeting, the board also voted to develop a one-year low-income residential water rate assistance program that will help low-income county households pay their water bills during the pandemic.


  1. What about desalination? The Carlsbad CA Desalination plant delivers 54K acre/ft a year. Hetch Hetchy delivers 265K acre/ft a year. 5 Desal plants=Hetch Hetchy. Carlsbad plant was built for $1B in 2015. For $5-10B we could double the water delivered by Hetch Hetchy.

  2. Lets look at the numbers regarding Water need and consumption in the area.

    The average water consumption “total” regarding both food and drink for the average person is:

    “So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:

    About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men

    About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women

    These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20% of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.” (Google Mayo Clinic Water: How much should you drink a day?)

    In the 2010 census there was 1,718,640 people in Santa Clara County 893,851 Men and 887,797 Women

    Now to subtract the 20% of the Male intake you result in 2.96L daily for Men and 2.16L Daily for Women Thus you multiply the Male Population and Female Population and you see we need 2,645,799L for the Males and 1,917,642L for the Female a day. To convert that to area that comes to 2,646M^3 for Males and 1,918M^3 for a total of 4,564M^3 a day. Let’s convert this to Acres and you wind up with 3.7 Acre Foot a day or 1,350 Acre Foot a year. This is just Santa Clara County

    Now lets look at the state of CA. The State has 16,874,890 Males and 16,996,755 Females thus needs 49,949,680L for Males and 36,712,993L for Females when converted to area that comes to at total of 49,950M^3 for Males and 36,713M^3 for Females and a total of 86,662M^3 a day. Let’s convert this to Acres and you wind up with 70.3 Acre Foot a day or 25,660 Acre Foot a year.


    Agriculture uses from the Cal Dept of Water Resources provides 34,000,000 Acre Feet of water all by itself. This is the severe problem with the current water supply.

    If you add the resources you stated above:

    “What about desalination? The Carlsbad CA Desalination plant delivers 54K acre/ft a year. Hetch Hetchy delivers 265K acre/ft a year. 5 Desal plants=Hetch Hetchy. Carlsbad plant was built for $1B in 2015. For $5-10B we could double the water delivered by Hetch Hetchy.”

    We need at least 34,026K acre foot a year of water. And you just pointed out that 1 Desal plant only provides about 60K acre foot per year. This loss of regional water is going to REALLY cost a LOT of money, even if we only get say 10% of our water through desal resources, that will mean we need 3,402K acre foot a year, you divide that by 60 and we will need 57 desal facilities built and at $200M per unit that initial cost will be $11.34B to build them let alone operate.

    I strongly believe we are going to need a LOT more than 10%. Let’s just face the facts here, we are OVERPOPULATED with regards to the resources of water and the needs we have, and either we pay a HIGH price for the water or we see a dramatic reduction in population or business.

  3. I am confused, I thought that Measure S just passed in November, had these two projects in its priority list: Pacheco Reservoir Expansion and Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit.

    Also, what ever happened to Gary Kremen’s campaign promise to try to overturn the “unfair” State Water Project tax the Water District charges North County residents?

  4. SRB:

    You need to be reminded that Measure S was not for dealing with water shortages, please read the short description:

    “Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program.

    Shall the measure to renew the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program which ensures public health and safety by: • protecting drinking water supply, dams from earthquakes and climate change; • reducing pollution, toxins and contaminants in waterways; and • providing flood protection; by renewing Santa Clara Valley Water District’s existing parcel tax without increasing rates, averaging $.006 per square foot annually as described in Resolution 20-64 until ended by voters, raising approximately $45,500,000 annually, with qualifying senior exemption, annual audits, independent citizen oversight be adopted?

    So these funds did not say they were going to COVER water SHORTAGE costs. I think you got confused.

    As far as TRYING to overturn the State Water Project tax, that is a state legislation of perhaps a state proposition situation. He is free to “lobby” for change, but he could not PROMISE anything regarding things that are not his jursdiction or control. If voters actually thought he could do so,maybe you need to relaern some basic jurisidiction limitations regarding City, County, and State policy powers and controls.

    Just like the Declaration allows for the PURSUIT of happyness, there is no provision to say you are entitled to it. He may TRY, but his limited capacity may in fact render his attempts weak or useless.

    THe FACTS are that either we pay the high prices for adequate usable water, or we have to state winding down the state of CA demand for it. There are no middle ground here, except the recycling of sewage water into consumable or agricultural water.. But agricultural water is the same as consumable because any water used with any contaminants is likely to be absorbed and contained in the crops, and if those crops are used for cattle feed, the same problem there.

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