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Letter to the Editor: No Time to Dilly-Dally Over Our Water Supply

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Santa Clara County's 10 reservoirs as of Oct. 15 are overall 61 percent empty.

At least five of the county dams have storage limitations due to seismic concerns. 

Per the Santa Clara Valley Water District, "Earth's climate is changing, posing one of the most significant threats to our water resources. Unprecedented long-lasting droughts that leave our largest reservoirs dry are anticipated. A major earthquake threatens a catastrophic failure of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levee system, through which about half of Santa Clara County's water supply passes."

Per California State Sen. Joe Simitian: "The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is California's Katrina waiting to happen."

Santa Clara County must maintain an adequate water supply in the 10 reservoirs and about twice as large groundwater sub-basins to combat possible future wildfires. 

Per Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager: "Early response is critical when it comes to wildfires." 

Future high fire danger areas may include Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Saratoga.

Ken Pimlott, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection director, has reported that "11 of California's largest wildfires have occurred since 2002." 

During the Oct. 20, 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Hills Fire Storm, rapid fire spread resulted in 25 deaths, 150 injuries, 3,469 living units damaged and 1,520 acres burned; inadequate water supply was a major problem.  

Recommendations: Local solutions are needed to mitigate future water supply challenges. More groundwater recharge ponds, such as those located in Los Gatos Creek County Park, 1250 Dell Ave., in Campbell, are visible from Highway 17.

Currently there are only 393 acres of groundwater recharge ponds in Santa Clara County out of 834,566 total acres.

"Just as water is the foundation of life, it must also be the foundation of design of the built environment," said Betsy Damon, founder of Keeper of the Waters. 

For the years when we will have significant rainfall, improved rainfall capturing is needed.

Per Brock Dolman of the Occidental, California Water Institute: "Slow the water (rain) down. Spread the water out. Sink the water into the land." 

Congratulations to San Jose for recycling about 8.1 million gallons of water per day! Promotion and rebates for greywater systems (e.g., shower water reuse for lawns, gardens) and rain harvesting systems (about one inch of rain on a 1,000 square foot roof can capture about 500 gallons) are needed.

Please see save20gallons.org and valleywater.org/myrebate for additional ideas. 

"The most important environmental issue is one that is rarely mentioned, and that is the lack of a conservation ethic in our culture," said Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day founder. 

California's 38 million population is expected to reach 50 million by 2048. By 2050, scientists project a 25 percent loss of the Sierra snowpack, the heart of California's water supply. 

More people, less water resource. Future generations have been left with a disastrous $16 trillion-plus national debt. 

Let us not make the same type of mistake with our future water supply. We cannot count on California desalination plants and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan Tunnel, if they occur by about 2025 or at all, to solve future local water supply concerns.

As President John F. Kennedy said during an early 1960s California visit, "We prepare the way for those who come after us."

There is no time to dilly-dally.

—David William Lane is Los Gatos Santa Clara County 2011 Watershed Keeper of the Year

Tom Foolery October 18, 2012 at 02:23 PM
We may not have much in the way of ponds to put the water back in but we have plenty elsewhere that can and is used downstream that they don't talk about when they want what they can get. How about San Luis Reservoir? Doesn't that feed the groundwater when needed? Sure we collect water, but I think we also pump it in.
Franco Harris October 18, 2012 at 03:35 PM
i don't think we'll ever run out of evian.
Bob M October 18, 2012 at 03:36 PM
You do understand that the water in San Luis Res comes from the delta water system, right? By itself San Luis does not "collect" enough local water to fill or store the reservoir's capacity. Using the delta canals, water is brought from the delta down to the O'Neill Forebay and, when there is excess it gets pumped up from the Forebay to San Luis. When there is a need for extra water (lower canal flows or greater need in Southern Cal) they pump the water back out of San Luis into the Forebay and then release it back into the canal system. The South Bay currently does draw some water from San Luis to supplement our other water systems, that includes water collected from the Santa Cruz Mtns, local wells and ground water perculation as these systems bring the water into the area. The problem is as the population grows, and the water sources decline, there is more competition for the available water. In a decade or so, the pain you are now feeling at the gas pumps will be felt at your water meter.
Dave Lane October 29, 2012 at 09:06 AM
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's tone of voice comment in the San Jose City Council Chambers that Santa Clara County water supply availability is "teetering on catastrophe" sparked my interest in researching the matter. Besides the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levees being possibly susceptible to a major earthquake future rising sea levels combined with weather variability and full moon high tides like what is occurring now with east coast Hurricane Sandy might also compromise the Delta levees therefore contaminating freshwater with saltwater. The San Luis Reservoir stores water from the Delta. Thus if the Delta water becomes contaminated the large reservoir will cease receiving the freshwater diversion therefore impacting Santa Clara County. As mentioned in my letter the future Santa Clara County water availability situation and possible hillsides and very nearby cities/towns wildfire protection, needs to be increasingly addressed on a local basis. I have added photos with captions attached above. I believe that all Santa Clara County city/town managers should be meeting twice a year with the Santa Clara County executive and Water Districts to further develop local solutions. "Water in the Santa Clara Valley: A History" and "Creek and Watershed Maps" developed by the Oakland Museum, which include groundwater system locations, are very helpful references. Mark Twain said ..."water is for fighting over." There is no time to dilly-dally.
Dave Lane August 20, 2013 at 05:12 AM
Referencing no time to dilly-dally over our water supply including my recommendations/solutions and the front page Monday, 08/19/13, San Jose Mercury News article by Paul Rogers: "San Luis Reservoir at its lowest level since '89, and water officials are worried". In 1960, shortly after the last of Santa Clara County's ten reservoirs was built, the county population was 642,000. In 2010 the county population was 1,781,642, a number that does not include the very significant Silicon Valley employee increases. As we know California's population has also dramatically increased reducing water supply allocations to Santa Clara County from the San Luis Reservoir and elsewhere.

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