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California Drought: Water Use Up in Some South Bay Communities, Despite Calls to Conserve

LOS ALTOS (KPIX) -- South Bay communities are consistently falling short of water conservation goals as officials consider imposing drought penalties including fines and higher rates.

One of Santa Clara County's most affluent communities -- Los Altos Hills -- actually saw water usage increase in July compared to 2019.

"My first thought is that it's very selfish, because we're in a drought period. And there's certain things that need to be cut out immediately," said Sharisse Kokernak of her Los Altos neighbors.

The Purissima Hills Water District which covers parts of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills is not part of the Santa Clara Valley Water District. It receives its water from the San Francisco Regional Water System but is under an identical voluntary call to cut water usage by 15%.

"During COVID, the district has seen a general increase in water use as people continue to shelter in place and work from home. For this reason, year to year comparative numbers are difficult," the district's General Manager Phil Witt explained in a prepared statement.

Most communities, however, managed to achieve modest reductions in July. Gilroy shaved three percent off their 2019 usage numbers; San Jose was down six percent. Palo Alto and Stanford fared significantly better, reducing usage by 13% and 15% respectively.

Overall water usage across the district was down six percent.

"We are starting to sharpen our message of conservation. I've sharpened my tone and will do more as this continues," said Director Gary Kremen with the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Some water providers like the San Jose Water Company are considering drought penalties if conservation doesn't improve.

"We want to make sure that we've exhausted all possible options for our customers to conserve before we implement. This is not something that we want to do based on the very serious drought that we're in," said San Jose Water Company Communications Director Liann Walborsky.

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