REASONS FOR RECOMMENDATION
At the March 20 HLUET Committee meeting, the committee made several requests for additional information or analysis including the County’s ongoing public and employee drought education efforts, further analysis of adiabatic distillation technology for County emergency purposes – both of which are provided in separate transmittals on this committee agenda, a review of the water conservation measures adopted by the fifteen cities in the county, a preliminary County plan for implementing possible water conservation measures, and an analysis of the Proposition 218 implications for water retailers contemplating tiered water pricing in response to the current drought. In addition, this report includes an update of County efforts to further reduce water usage.
Updated Water Outlook
Despite storm events that have occurred in the last month, water supplies locally and statewide have not measurably improved. These local storms did not produce significant runoff in local reservoirs due to extremely dry watershed conditions. While statewide storms did provide flows through the Delta that improved water quality and freshness of source water for SCVWD’s treatment plants, the precipitation was not sufficient to result in an allocation from the State Water Project (currently a 0% allocation) or the Federal Central Valley Project.
The SCVWD has a Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP), which is a required component of the SCVWD’s Urban Water Management Plan. In a conjunctive use water management system (i.e. a system that uses groundwater and surface water), projected year-end groundwater storage takes into account surface water supply conditions and demands that directly or indirectly contribute to or deplete total groundwater storage. This year-end projection functions as an early warning sign and an indicator of a potential water shortage.
The WSCP establishes five levels of water use reduction targets:
· Normal (Stage 1), Groundwater reserves above 300,000 acre-feet (AF).
· Alert (Stage 2), 250,000 – 300,000 AF. 0-10% Reduction.
· Severe (Stage 3) 200,000 – 250,000 AF. In 2014, groundwater reserves are projected to drop below 250,000 AF. 10-20% Reduction.
· Critical (Stage 4), 150,000 – 200,000 AF. 20-40% Reduction.
· Emergency (Stage 5), Below 150,000 AF. Up to 50% Reduction.
If Santa Clara County residents do not reduce water use by 20% from 2013 levels between now and the end of 2014, our county’s end-of-year groundwater storage – which the county relies upon and draws from throughout the year – is projected to drop to between 200,000 and 250,000 acre-feet. This would put Santa Clara County in Stage 3 (Severe). For comparison, Santa Clara County used 366,000 acre feet of water in 2013.
In multi-year drought scenarios, if the groundwater basin is overdrafted, Santa Clara County could see the return of historic land surface subsidence in northern cities adjacent to San Francisco Bay and increased saltwater intrusion from the Bay into the groundwater basin. When land subsidence occurs, the land on top of a an aquifer sinks, threatening critical infrastructure like wastewater and stormwater collection systems and treatment plants, flood control levees, water distribution pipelines, roads, and buildings.
If saltwater intrusion occurs, the salt would impair our groundwater quality, which is a significant source of drinking water supply for the county and primary drought reserve in the future. To the south, while land subsidence and saltwater intrusion are not generally a risk in southern Santa Clara County, overdrafting of the groundwater basin in this region could result in lower groundwater levels, increased pumping costs, and potential need to drill deeper wells to access groundwater. In addition, the quality of groundwater in South County could also change if groundwater gradients shift, causing poorer quality groundwater to flow into areas adjacent to the Pajaro River boundary.
Water Conservation Measures of Cities in Santa Clara County
A matrix is attached that sets forth the water conservation measures of nine of the fifteen cities, all but two of which are water retailers. The Administration will continue to endeavor to communicate with staff of the other six cities in the county to ascertain what water conservation measures they have deployed or plan to deploy in response to the current drought and will update the matrix accordingly.
If the Board desires to enact water conservation measures for the unincorporated areas of the county, it is the Administration’s recommendation that the Board direct staff to review existing water conservation measures and report back with a set of proposed recommendations.
Preliminary Plan for Implementing Water Conservation Measures
If the Board were to proceed with further water conservation actions, the Administration would recommend that the County proceed by first working with County Counsel to prepare a resolution calling for a 20% reduction in water use from 2013 levels.
The Administration would then propose that water conservation measures be prepared for review by the Board and that two or more community meetings be convened prior to Board adoption of any ordinance(s) to accomplish two purposes: 1) Receive public input about the draft ordinances’ necessity, application, and enforcement; and, 2) Serve as a means to reinforce the need for water conservation in the community.
The County Executive’s Office is meeting later in April with relevant operating departments to determine how enforcement of code violations could be accomplished, and this information will be used to inform the preparation of the water conservation measures.
Closer to an ordinance effective date, the Administration would develop a communication plan as well as an implementation plan, which would likely include features, such as, a Water Complaint Hotline.
Proposition 218 Analysis for Increasing Water Rates
At the March 20, HLUET Committee meeting, the committee requested information about the possible Prop. 218 implications of increasing water rates. County Counsel’s analysis is that increases in water service fees or charges are exempt from Proposition 218’s voter approval requirements. (Cal. Const., art. XIIID, § 6(c) (exempting fees for water, sewer and refuse collection).) However, water service fees are not exempt from the requirements that the amount of a fee or charge not exceed the cost of service attributable to the parcel, or that revenues derived from the fee or charge not exceed the funds required to provide the service. (Id. at § 6(b).) Thus, water services fees could be raised without voter approval if the cost of providing the water service increases as a result of the drought. But rates may not be raised purely for the purpose of discouraging water consumption.
Additional County Water Conservation Activities
Parks and Recreation, Roads and Airports, and Facilities and Fleet (FAF) Departments have installed static mirror cling decals in over 300 restrooms to remind users to conserve water. Bathrooms with metered faucets that turn off automatically were not included.
FAF is currently working on a project for 144 toilets at Elmwood Correctional Complex to install flushometers, which limit the number of flushes in an hour. These devices will regulate water flow and reduce the number and intensity of flooding.
The SCVWD Conservation Team facilitated four water conservation workshops for County employees at the following times and locations:
· April 10, Thursday, 12-12:45pm, at 70 West Hedding Street
· April 11, Friday, 12-12:45pm, at 1555 Berger Drive
· April 14, Monday, 12-12:45pm, at 333 West Julian Street
· April 15, Tuesday, 12-12:45pm, at 2325 Enborg Lane
Valley Medical Center (VMC) coordinated with SCVWD to schedule a site visit and water survey in April 2014. SCVWD’s Conservation Team will identify and recommend water saving opportunities at VMC.
The recommended action will have no/neutral impact on children and youth.
The recommended action will have no/neutral impact on seniors.
The recommended action will have no/neutral sustainability implications.
At the January 14, 2014 Board meeting, Supervisor Cortese submitted a referral approved by the Board of Supervisors to “direct the Administration to examine the drought currently experienced in California and report back in an off agenda report as well as to HLUET Committee on February 20 with an analysis of the situation including recommendations the Board can take to ameliorate this potential crisis.”
In a subsequent referral, Supervisor Cortese asked the County Executive to supplement the Drought Report by including an analysis of water extraction technologies, with a particular focus on Adiabatic Distillation, and a possible pilot project using standard procurement procedures.
At the February 27, 2014 HLUET Committee meeting, the committee requested the Administration to study possible mandatory measures, prepare a monthly Drought Report, and present an analysis of water extraction technologies for County of Santa Clara emergency use and potential agricultural uses. The Drought Report and the analysis of water extraction technologies are provided under separate reports.
At the March 20, 2014 HLUET Committee meeting, the committee asked for several pieces of information or analysis including a report on the water conservation measures adopted by the fifteen cities in Santa Clara County, a preliminary analysis of budgetary resources and plan for implementing water conservation measures, further analysis of adiabatic distillation technology for County emergency purposes, the additional public and employee drought education the County is undertaking, and Proposition 218 requirements for water retailers that desire to increase water rates.