The County of Santa Clara


Consider recommendations relating to current drought conditions in Santa Clara County. (Office of the County Executive)


Department:Office of the County ExecutiveSponsors:

Multiple Recommendations

Possible action:
a. Accept April 2014 Drought Report.
b. Direct Administration to provide recommendations on possible water conservation measures for unincorporated Santa Clara County.



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.



Meeting History

Apr 17, 2014 10:00 AM Video Housing, Land Use, Environment, and Transportation Committee (HLUET) Regular Meeting

Item Nos. 6, 7, and 8 were considered concurrently.

The Committee requested that staff forward a proposed Resolution to the Board relating to setting a 20 percent water use reduction and directed Administration to provide recommendations on possible water conservation measures, for report to the Committee on date uncertain.

MOVER:Dave Cortese, Chairperson
SECONDER:Mike Wasserman, Vice Chair
AYES:Mike Wasserman, Dave Cortese
May 13, 2014 9:00 AM Video Board of Supervisors Regular Meeting
MOVER:Cindy Chavez, Supervisor
SECONDER:Ken Yeager, Supervisor
AYES:Mike Wasserman, Cindy Chavez, Dave Cortese, Ken Yeager, S. Joseph Simitian


Apr 17, 2014 10:00 AMHousing, Land Use, Environment, and Transportation Committee (HLUET)Regular Meeting


10:28 AMApproved unanimously.
Item 6, sylvia, I guess i'll turn to you on this. I'm assuming we don't have anyone here from the water district this time around, and that's fine if it's true.
We actually do and i'll introduce him in a minute.
So, pretenders 6, 7 and 8 respond to the committee's request for additional information in the last meeting and report 6 specifically focuses on your request for a listing of what the other cities are doing with respect to water conservation and we include that in the matrix in the bax and e -- back and then we described a plan, and lastly you asked for a prop 218 analysis, that's reflected on page -- packet page 50 of the report. Before I continue, let me introduce rachel gibson from the water district and jerry de la piedra from the water district and they're here to respond to any specific questions you have from them. Very quickly, let me start with a brief water supply out look update, as i've said before, we're entering our third dry water year, and while there were some recent storm events locally and statewide, it didn't praoesh ably increase the water supply, and the water district indicates that now most of the reservoirs have now fallen to 35% of their 20 year average storage, so just to distill us to its essence and it's reflected in the report, if this community doesn't reduce their water use by 20%, it will be just barely above stage 4, their critical state, it will be about 2505 acre feet of water, the meaningful of this, it will be above stage 4 critical. There is a let frer the water districted dated March 13th to the president of the board asking us to do our part in instituting mesh rewires so we can help achieve this 20% goal, so what i'm suggesting if the board wants to proceed, and you can see that other communities have done this as well, that we would start by having the board adopt a resolution calling forward a 20% reduction, and then what I was going to suggest but I think it's more effective to do this another day, you can see the matrix what some of the other communities are doing, we were able to get 9 of the 15 cities, we don't have dedicated swatted staff, so we're doing this analytical work on top of our regular work, if you look at those, it's not an accident that those who have instituted measures have dedicated water departments in our water retailers, so what i'm suggesting as a second step after adopting the resolution is that you ask us to go back and develop a set of measures and we'll come back and we'll look at the characteristics of our communities to make sure it's sensible, it's easy, none of us like to pass regulation that is are hard to follow, and then we'll come back to the committee and you can give us your reactions to those and we'll try to look at morgan hill and gilroy to see what we're doing to make sure we're not instituting anything different from what those communities are doing. So, let's see, what else? And then finally as I always like to say, never let a crisis go to waste, indeed this would be an opportune time to institute measures that we think ought to be instituted on a permanent basis, if not during a drought, when can we get the community to understand there's a need for it, we're an arid climate and we're going to be more so in the future, to be better water citizens, these ought to be permanent practices so, with that, we're available to respond to questions.
10:32 AMI asked you, I think my questions are less for the water district at this point, it's pretty clear where we're headed there, although if somebody from the water district wants to come up, I just kind of keep discussing, why don't we keep discussing these three items at once, 6, 7, 8, and I guess the question would be on the education side. I just want to sort of jump ahead or jump to that item a little bit. It seems like there's a limited availability of inserts in collateral material from the water district at this point available to us, maybe because we're so big, you know, in terms of the jurisdiction that we cover, but i'm just wondering what the possibilities are of whatever funding they have, bond funding or anything else that's for the education of people out there might be available for the future, and seal via, after they're done, to ask or direct na whatever resolutions are necessary to accomplish the in-house program and the 20% rationing resolution, let's call it that, whether it makes sense to incorporate ta into the motion and get na work started.
10:33 AMGood morning, Mr. Chair and vice chair, i'm from the water district, in the interest of time and circumstances, i'll state we're in strong support of staff's recommendation, particularly the direction to develop a resolution calling for measures and development of those measures and we stand ready to assist in any way possible with respect to tha, with respect to the inserts, that is something I will take back to the water district, that is not consistent with my understanding, so we will definitely work with staff at all levels to make sure we're assisting the county. You are a great distribution channel and we want to make sure we exploit that as best we can to get the word out.
10:34 AMThat would be great.
Thank you.
And maybe there's a possibility of I think a couple of years ago, we finally got most of the universe of employees here, for example, the departments on a single system, electronic system, so pdf's and things like that May be kind of useful here than they used to be, and i'm sure gwen can work with you on that as well. Sylvia, on to-do items except for the report, if it's not already started, getting a resolution ready makes some sense because I know counsel will have to look at that and so forth.
10:35 AMIn terms of next steps, what we're recommending is that the board adopt a resolution calling for that 20% reduction and if the committee's ready, we would also recommend directing us to develop a set of measures that we can bring back to the committee, and just as an aside, I want to emphasize that we continue as an organization to institute projects to be even more water efficient and we continue as you saw and I think it was report number 7 to continue to educate both the public and our own employees and we do welcome the nudge so that we can get the resources to do that, continue to do that.
And we are -- we all should be proud of the fact that despite population growth in this county and job growth, industrial growth and so forth, over the last decade that we've reduced our overall water consumption, that's hard to do, so i'm not sure how much else is out there in terms of possibility, but it's good -- as you said, it's a good as time as any to try to figure that out, so supervisor wasserman, if you're ready, ix we can accept the report, ask that a resolution be prepared for board discussion and possible adoption that coincides with -- that would be the outstay corollary to the water district's 20% reduction program and also bring back a set of measures to committee, not to the board of supervisors, for us to look alt in terms of intracounty water conservation possibilities.
10:36 AMThank you, I appreciate that and whit gets brought to us, I think it's also important to clarify how the 20% gets measured, that's an important thing, i'm happy to say I got my 60 day water bill last night and I exceeded my 20%, so there's people who I know who have been working very diligently these last few months knowing that water -- the expected water, the normal annual water wasn't happening, and they've been taking steps and it's always very important to me, you have a single individual living by themselves, a senior citizen living by themselves, for that person to cut 20% is different, it's hard to cut 20% of such a small number if you're already doing water conservation, so I think what the important message, that we're all working together, city, districts, the county, etc. , to get the message out there to the public that the drought is real, the crisis is real and there are solutions to that and we all need to work together, but the definition of that and enforcement also will be a very interesting area to get into, but I know in years past, i've been associated with the water district as an elected official sitting on the committee for the last 12 years and I know when the water district has asked the public to respond, for the public stepped up, the public has in fact stepped up, so it's working together is the way to solve this and not be adversarial in any way.
10:38 AMOkay, if those recommendations are good, i'm also happy if you are to move 6, 7 and 8 under one motion.
I am. I think, chair, I think it's important also and I know there's been some nodding and heads and discussion before that you've got, again, rural and urban, you've got the ag industry, you know, I mentioned at a water district meeting na having a business that relies on water to grow crops, to reduce 20% has a financial impact to that business. That's a whole lot different than a family that does full loads of wash and full loads of dishwasher and maybe doesn't flush quite as often. That doesn't have a financial impact. That's not financially devastating to an industry or to a business, so i'll be looking forward to receiving information and suggestions that addresses the need of the ag industry specifically, those businesses that rely on such large use of water.
10:39 AMOkay, so we have agreement, a motion to move 6, 7 and 8 together, I know we didn't take a formal presentation on 8, that's the technology report on antibiotic distillation.
Second that.
So, i'm comfortable with the written report if you are.