Op-Ed: From COVID to Storms, Valley Water is Prepared for a Range of Emergencies

Since late February, Valley Water has closely monitored the COVID-19 crisis to ensure that our organization continues to perform its primary functions of delivering safe, clean water to Santa Clara County, and providing flood protection to homes and businesses across our community.

Over the past several months our organization has also engaged in emergency repairs to critical infrastructure while striving to minimize impacts to our water delivery system.

Valley Water’s ability to quickly respond to a variety of emergencies is possible because of our continuous work in emergency preparedness. We are ready to respond to emergencies such as power shutoffs, damaged pipelines or any other number of hazards that may arise, to allow us to fulfill the needs of our organization to serve the community.

Valley Water is also ready to respond to emergencies under our purview such as damage or operational issues with our pipelines, dams and reservoirs or other infrastructure. We maintain emergency action plans for our reservoirs and many of our streams, which are reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

Following the flooding along Coyote Creek in 2017, Valley Water collaborated with the city of San Jose to take our existing Emergency Action Plan and create a combined plan to define a strategy for how the agencies prepare for, communicate and respond to flooding on Coyote Creek, as well as other waterways. We continue to collaborate with the city of San Jose in this effort.

As part of our mission to provide flood protection to our community, we are always preparing for the possibility of a flood event. We work year-round to keep the 275 miles of streams in Santa Clara County owned and managed by Valley Water ready for winter storm runoff. We removed sediment build-up, manage vegetation, clear trash and debris, and stabilize banks that have eroded during high water flows.

In the event there is heavy rain, we track incoming storms and closely watch “hot spot” areas in our county that are prone to flooding.

Although we don’t directly respond to emergencies such as COVID-19 like the [Santa Clara County] Public Health Department or medical facilities, we must closely monitor those events to minimize interruptions to our day-to- day operations and staffing levels. Valley Water has procedures and roadmaps in place to best position us to get through these types of events with minimal impact to our business continuity. With the potential for widespread absenteeism due to COVID-19, ensuring that our specially trained staff remain healthy and available to operate our water treatment plants is critical.

In the past six months Valley Water has responded to far-reaching emergencies—COVID-19 and the Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS)—which resulted in the activation of our Emergency Operation Center. This is a central hub that brings together various parts of Valley Water’s functions and allows for clear communication and coordinated action within the organization. That means we can respond to emergencies faster, communicate important information quickly and address issues as they arise.

During this stay-at-home order, the Emergency Operation Center is operating virtually to support social distancing best practices and help limit the spread of COVID-19.

In February, Valley Water identified a leak on the Milpitas Pipeline in East San Jose, which supplies treated water to our north San Jose and Milpitas service areas and is our sole connection to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s intertie facility. Because this is a critical pipeline, the Board declared an emergency to allow for rapid deployment of resources to complete repairs.

We quickly identified a contractor to help determine the extent of the problem and begin work on this emergency repair. Crews worked onsite for extended hours and days to expedite this repair and concluded the repair and patchwork in about one week. The contractor is now replacing the roadway that was torn apart to gain access to the pipeline, and that work is expected to be completed by mid-May.

What we’ve learned from recent emergency events, the PSPS and our current public health crisis, is that we are likely going to be dealing with more emergencies that threaten to disrupt our business continuity. Please know that Valley Water consistently prepares to respond to a variety of emergencies in order to continue delivering a reliable supply of water to our community and provide flood protection to residents and businesses no matter what situation may arise.

Tony Estremera is the vice chair of the Valley Water Board of Directors, representing District 6, which spans the San Jose neighborhoods of Alum Rock and Seven Trees. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].


  1. Ah yes. The specially trained workers at Valley Water MUST remain healthy. Public employees are more important than the rest of us and must continue to enjoy their pampered existence.
    When you do finally decide it’s safe to come out of your hidey hole and start earning your pay, could you do something about those grotesque pits that used to be known as percolation ponds but are now an unsightly mess of head high weeds, sagebrush, and tumbleweeds?

    • It’s California’s feudal system. You’re a true serf and all the SCVWD employees are lords and ladies. The viceroy in Sacramento makes fiat law with every breath. You pay for the rest of your servile existence for their lifetime income. You’re not paying for service today, which might be the same square deal you used to have with your barber, your baker, or candlestick maker. Because of “unfunded liabilities” owed by the serfs to their overlords, you’ll be paying SCVWD for non-service forever.

    • Not to mention the flood with no warning in downtown San Jose a couple years ago.

      SCVWD is a hub o’ hubbies. It used to be that water board members had financial interests in contracts and lined their pockets directly. It’s the most boring job you can imagine with only part-time pay, so folks had to know why anyone would want to be on a board.

      Now it isn’t done directly, it’s all about friends and family. Standard practice is the wife’s a vp or vice ops manager or some other kind of vice. Hubby is vice something at a big construction co. She approves the multi-million-dollar contract and either his options are worth more or they give him more options. If there’s any heat, she takes a coffee break and the girlfriends approve it. Then she does likewise for their hubbies. Who was that gal when Beau Goldie ran the show and what was the name of that contractor?

  2. Yeah, like you were prepared for the 2017 flood, the revelations about COO Hawk’s conflicts of interest, and her sudden resignation?

    • Not to mention having had decades of time and hundreds of millions of dollars with which to work and STILL failing to relieve property owners near the upper Guadalupe of the flood zone designation and the consequent burden of being extorted for flood insurance premiums payable to Valley Water’s partners in crime, the National Flood Insurance Program.

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