gmhTODAY 14 gmhToday May June 2017 - Page 13

STATE ACTIONS “Drought or no drought, demand for water in California always outstrips supply. Continued con- servation is key.” Governor Jerry Brown volume and speed of water coming out of the mountains — data that’s vital to farmers, ranchers, and water managers at all levels of government. In late March, the Sierra snowpack was somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 percent of average for that time of year. An early spring with above-normal temperatures will cause a snowmelt flow that exceeds the capacity of our water systems to capture it. Long-term projections based on data models suggest that the snowpack will continue to shrink over time. SOUTH COUNTY WATER NASA photo of earth (United States) from space Santa Clara County’s groundwater basins and treatment plants. It’s the source of half the water we use here. Water district contracts with the state and federal governments and other water agencies determine how much “imported” Sierra Nevada water South County receives each year. It’s a safe bet that competition for this water will rise in the coming years. Effective management of this precious natural resource requires scientific knowhow. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs say there’s an “enormous void in quantitative knowledge of mountain snowpacks.” They developed the Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) to fill that void with data. The ASO is piloted over Sierra peaks to measure snowpack depth and melt rate to determine the South County is in District 1 of the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD). John Varela is Board Chair of SCVWD and Director of District 1, which also includes part of the San Jose-Santa Teresa and Evergreen areas. According to Varela, we get the lion’s share of our water from groundwater supplies drawn from the Llagas and Coyote Subbasins, which are managed by the water district. These water- sheds are replenished by local rainfall, water captured and stored in local reservoirs, and water imported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. SCVWD reports show that between 2006 and 2016, groundwater pumping in South County averaged 55,331 acre- feet per year; and managed recharge was 35,600 acre-feet per year. Despite some years of record snowpack and heavy rainfall, on average, natural groundwater recharge is no longer enough to meet demand. When that happens, the water district imports water from its partners in other GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MAY/JUNE 2017 In 2011, Governor Brown lifted the state’s drought emergency order. Who knew that 2012 would kick off a four-year drought cycle? In 2014, voters passed Proposition 1, the Governor’s $7.5 billion Water Bond. Of the bond funds, $2.7 billion was pre-authorized for water storage. Allocations for other water needs began moving through the multi-year budget appropriations process: $725 million for recycling, $800 million for groundwater clean- up and management, and $1.5 billion for watershed and habitat restoration projects. In 2015, the state “fast-tracked” more than $1 billion for drought relief and critical water infrastructure projects and asked Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. In 2016, the State Water Resources Control Board and other agencies issued a draft plan for long-term water-use efficiency standards, permanent prohibition of waste- ful practices, regular reporting by water suppliers, tightening up of leaky systems, and stronger plans to address water shortages. In January and February of 2017, a series of storms brought the Sierra snowpack, reservoirs, and waterways to above-normal levels. In April, Governor Brown lifted the drought emergency order, but cau- tioned that “the next drought could be around the corner. . .conserva- tion must remain a way of life.” gmhtoday.com 13