Since Santa Clara County’s water district declared a water shortage emergency in June, water consumption has continued to decrease — slowing the rate of groundwater declines.

At the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s board meeting Tuesday, staff shared that nearly all of their 13 water retailers used around 10 percent less water than they did in 2019 for the month of August.

The water district does not yet have the September water usage data compiled, but senior water resources specialist Neeta Bijoor said August’s numbers indicate a downward trend in water usage.

Water use has gone down because of a myriad of efforts, Bijoor said.

This includes directives from Valley Water and its 11 local jurisdictions for residents and businesses that restrict irrigation to certain days and times.

In addition, Valley Water has provided water-efficient devices and water waste reports for residents and small businesses as well as rebates for those who change their lawns to be more drought efficient.

In September, they received more than 200 applications for the landscape rebate program, 400 orders for water-efficient devices, and more than 200 water waste reports.

“These are signs that people are taking the drought seriously and are continuing to take actions to support water use reductions,” Bijoor said.

Groundwater supply stabilizing

These efforts, along with imported water supplies, have helped slow the rate of groundwater level declines.

In fact, Bijoor said while groundwater has continued to decrease in parts of the county, other parts have seen groundwater stabilize or increase.

“However, projected 2022 groundwater storage is similar to what was observed in 2014, which continues the risk of subsidence in North County and wells flowing dry particularly in South County,” Bijoor continued.

Subsidence is when the ground gradually sinks because groundwater levels decrease significantly, which can impact infrastructure.

“These are signs that people are taking the drought seriously and are continuing to take actions to support water use reductions.”

Neeta Bijoor, Santa Clara Valley Water District

During the state’s last drought from 2012 to 2016, so much water was pumped that the earth collapsed and sank nearly 2 feet each year in San Joaquin Valley.

Santa Clara County hasn’t experienced the same impact, but water officials fear it could happen, especially as the county has already had one report of a dry well.

The well is located in an unincorporated part of South County within the southwestern Coyote Valley that “is close to the foothills where well yield is generally less reliable,” according to the most recent Drought Emergency Response Report.

No dry wells have been reported in North County.

But the Public Policy Institute of California estimates that 2,700 wells could go dry this year, and nearly 1,000 more next year if dry conditions persist — most of which are in the Central Valley.

Hoping trend continues

Valley Water officials said they are hopeful water use will continue to decrease and are turning to the state and federal government for help.

The governor’s recent approval of the $260 billion for the next fiscal year — the largest in state history — allocates billions to address the drought.

About $5.2 billion is allocated for programs that support immediate drought response and $3.7 billion is to fund climate resilience projects to combat climate change, according to Valley Water’s Drought Emergency Response Report.

“Staff is reviewing it for possible grant funding opportunities for Valley water projects that also continues to advocate for federal drought relief funding and bills under consideration,” Bijoor said.

Such sources include the federal infrastructure bill because it allocates funding for storage and large-scale recycled water projects, such as Valley Water’s Recycled and Purified Water projects; the House budget reconciliation bill because it allocates additional funding for recycled water projects, and the House-introduced disaster supplemental funding bill which includes $200 million for drought relief.

Valley Water offers more information on its website for residents interested in learning about water conservation or signing up for any of the district’s programs.