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Santa Clara County Declares Drought Emergency; Water Conservation Urged in Unincorporated Areas

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- Santa Clara County has declared a local emergency due to extreme drought conditions, and is urging residents and businesses in the county's unincorporated areas to immediately start conserveing water.

The county said in a press statement that under extreme drought conditions, fire season lasts year-round and fires may occur even in typically wet parts of the state. With the snowpack depleted and the rest of the state under similarly dry conditions, there is limited availability to import water.

Earlier this month, the Santa Clara Valley Water District declared a water shortage emergency and imposed mandatory water usage reductions of 15% compared to 2019 levels.  Other water districts in the county and in the Bay Area have already issued mandatory restrictions in their communities. The county's declaration applies to unincorporated areas and urges residents to voluntarily take on similar usage reduction goals.

"As Californians, we all know how precious water is. During the last drought, many of us learned that every drop is valuable, and we all came together to find creative new ways to conserve this incredibly important resource," said Board of Supervisors President Mike Wasserman in a statement. "We did it before and we can do it again – every small step we can each take to stretch our water supply is critical right now."

"The reality is we live in an arid region that will continue to experience droughts. Water conservation is something we must all do together, and this includes the County and the many facilities we operate," said Jasneet Sharma, Director of the County's Office of Sustainability in a statement. "There are many steps that we should all take, from large scale conservation projects and household level water conservation retrofits to simple household changes like turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth. Each one is an important part of sustainability."

In 2015, Santa Clara County approved a number of permanent water waste restrictions for unincorporated areas that continue to be in effect:
• Do not water outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff
• Do not use a hose to wash a vehicle, unless the hose is equipped with an automatic shut-off valve
• Do not use water to hose off paved areas and hardscapes, such as driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks
• Do not use water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated
• Do not water outdoor landscapes during the daylight hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., unless using a bucket, hose equipped with an automatic shutoff valve, or low-flow drip-type irrigation system
• Fix outdoor water leaks within seven days of notification by the County
For businesses, the following water uses are prohibited (unless it's necessary to address an immediate health or safety need, or to comply with a term or condition in a permit issued by a county, state, or federal agency):
• Service of water at a restaurant or public place where food or drinks are sold, unless upon request
• Use of non-water conserving dish wash spray valves at a restaurant or public place where food or drinks are sold
• Failure to use recycled or non-potable water for dust control or soil compaction purposes in construction activities when a source is readily available
• Installation or use of any new single pass cooling systems that circulate water only once to cool equipment before disposing the water
• Installation or use of any new non-recirculating water systems in commercial conveyor car wash systems
• Installation or use of any new non-recirculating water systems in commercial laundry systems
• Failure of a hotel, motel, or other commercial lodging establishment to provide customers with the option of declining daily towel and linen laundry services.

The County asks that all water waste complaints in unincorporated Santa Clara County be directed to the Santa Clara Valley Water District in any of the following ways:
• Drought response hotline (408-630-2000)
• Email (
• Free app for smartphones (available at

For residents and businesses who want to do their part in saving our water, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has a number of conservation programs that offer rebates for the following:
• Converting residential or commercial high-water use landscapes to drought-friendly ones
• Installation of Graywater Laundry-to-Landscape Systems
• Equipment changes at commercial, industrial, and institutional facilities to reduce water usage
• Installation of submeters and water meters

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