Santa Clara Valley Water District

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Santa Clara Valley Water District
Water district overview
Formed 1968 (1968-MM)
Preceding agencies
  • Santa Clara Valley Water Conservation District
  • Santa Clara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District
HeadquartersSan Jose, California
Water district executive
  • Rick Callender, Chief Executive Officer[1]

The Santa Clara Valley Water District (also known as Valley Water) provides stream stewardship, wholesale water supply and flood protection for Santa Clara County, California, in the southern San Francisco Bay Area. The district encompasses all of the county's 1,300 square miles (3,400 km2) and serves the area's 15 cities, 2 million residents and more than 200,000 commuters. In terms of acres, the district includes 138,000 acres, and 120,700 of those acres are lands that people have built cities, roads or cultivate farms on.[2] Almost 2,000 pumping wells supply the districts fields, houses and businesses with a clean reliable source of water.[2] The water district has about 150 miles of pipelines and operates 10 dams and reservoirs, three treatment plants, many groundwater recharge basins, three pump stations and an advanced water purification plant.[3] The district's three water treatment plants can produce as much as 210,000,000 US gallons (800,000 m3) of drinking water a day.

Watersheds of Santa Clara Valley:

There are five major watersheds in the Santa Clara water district. They include the Coyote Watershed, Guadalupe Watershed, Lower Peninsula Watershed, Uvas-Llagas Watershed, West Valley Watershed.[3]

  • Coyote Watershed- This is Santa Clara Water Districts largest water shed and is approximately 322 square miles.[3] The Penitencia Water Treatment Plant is located in this watershed and provides 270,000 customers with drinkable water.[3]
  • Guadalupe Watershed- This watershed holds the Lexington Reservoir and is approximately 170 square miles.[3]
  • Lower Peninsula Watershed- This watershed is approximately 98 square miles.[3]
  • Uvas-Llagas Watershed- This watershed is approximately 104 square miles.[3]
  • West Valley Watershed- This watershed is approximately 85 square miles.[3]

Origin of the water the Santa Clara Water District uses:

The water that supplies the Santa Clara Valley Water District comes from various locations. Some of it comes snowpack melt miles away.[3] This water is brought to the county through the many infrastructure projects in California, one of these infrastructure projects includes the Federal Central Valley Project.[3] Santa Clara county also gets some of its water from recycled water. This water is purified to remove impurities and is used in multiple areas such as in agriculture.[3] Santa Clara Water District has historically extracted water from under the ground in aquifers as well. Alluvial aquifers are the source of this ground water.[4]

Santa Clara Water District purification process:

The district treats wastewater in stages. First, solids are removed. Next, the water is disinfected with ozone.[3] After that, microscopic particles are removed.[3] The final stage is to disinfect with chlorine.[3] Chlorine kills organisms that may have survived the previous water purification stages, and helps prevent contamination from other organism after the stages are complete and while the water is transported.

Ground water over-extraction:

Over the years people have over-extracted the districts ground water causing problems. In 1916-1934 there was a drought due to lack of rainfall; this coupled with excessive water withdrawal dropped the average water level in wells in the Santa Clara Water District to 108 feet.[2] Excessive water consumption over many years has led to groundwater drops of more than 200 feet in some areas.[4] When water levels in these aquifers drop below their threshold, compaction causes the aquifer to not store as much water as it originally did before overextraction. This causes further issues as there is less available water to meet the needs of the people, farm and ecosystems that rely on this water. This also led to land subsidence up to 12.7 feet between the 60-year gap from 1900 to the 1960s.[4] Meaning that not only did water levels sink, but the above ground level sunk too.

Climate Change Adaptation:

The Santa Clara Water District has a guide to address "climate change" as they expect the area to experience changes that will impact people and wildlife.[3] They expect changes to occur in such things as the amount of rain received to the temperature of the air.[3] In fact, the driest start of the year the Santa Clara Water District ever recorded was noted on 3/14/2022.[3] They also expect severe weather events such as droughts, heat waves and even wildfires to increase.[3] This guide is known as the CCAP, or Valley Waters Climate Change Action Plan.[3]

This action plan has 7 goals:

  • 1. Reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions. [3]
  • 2. Expand the renewable energy portfolio and improve energy efficiency. [3]
  • 3. Reduce indirect greenhouse gas emissions. [3]
  • 4. Water supply adaption. [3]
  • 5. Flood protection adaption. [3]
  • 6. Ecosystem adaptation. [3]
  • 7. Emergency preparedness. [3]

Protection and Reintroduction of endangered Species:

The district has over 800 miles worth of waterways to protect and care for.[3] Within the counties' waterways live endangered species that need protection. One goal of the Santa Clara water District is to reintroduce the "Red-legged Frog", an endangered amphibian.[3] They also encourage the reestablishment and protection of other endangered species such as the "Steelhead Trout", and the "Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse".[3]


Santa Clara Water district provides “Water Education Programs and Events”. They hold virtual events and distance learning, as well as school classroom programs.[3] Interested parties can volunteer.[3]


  • Water Treatment Plants Electrical Improvement Project- The hearing for this project was held on February 8, 2022.[3]
  • Calabazas Creek Bank Rehabilitation Project-
  • Purified Water Project Scoping Meeting for the Environmental Impact Report-
  • Fish and Aquatic Habitat Collaborative Effort program Draft Environmental Impact Report- Held on July 21, 2021.[3]
    • Objectives of this projects included:
      • 1. Restore and maintain a healthy steelhead population in Steven's creek watershed. [3]
      • 2. Restore and maintain healthy steelhead and Chinook salmon populations in the Guadalupe River watershed. [3]
      • 3. Maintain flexible and reliable groundwater recharge to support current and future water supply. [3]
  • The Santa Clara Water District has a “Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program"
    • Its priorities are:
      • Supply a water source that is not only safe but reliable. [3]
      • Reducing water contaminants such as toxins and hazards. [3]
      • Provide a safety net of the water source in case of a natural disaster such as from earthquakes. [3]
      • Help restore and protect habitat for wildlife. [3]
      • Help protect people by supplying flood protection for their business, homes and schools, and provide the community with public health support. [3]


There was a leak in one of the pipelines in 2015 resulting in an estimated loss of 20 million gallons of water and resulted in $1.2 million in repairs and property damage.[5] The failure affected about 500 customers before it was fixed.[5]

Dams owned by the district[edit]

The district owns many dams, including:[6]


In December 2010 the Santa Clara Valley Water District was chosen as the water agency award recipient for the California Sustainability Alliance's Sustainability Showcase Award.[7] This award honors the District's commitment to sustainability as shown through their award-winning water use efficiency and conservation program.[8]


Each year the Board of Directors elects a director to serve as the chair of the board; the 2022 Chair originally was Gary Kremen.[9] Kremen, however, was forced to step down due to a sexual harassment scandal in March, 2022.[10] Kremen, who was found to have committed multiple acts of bullying and abuse of power,[11] never returned as Chair, having faced increased criticism for his inappropriate behavior.[12] In November, 2022, Kremen was defeated by newcomer Rebecca Eisenberg, Silicon Valley attorney, columnist, and environmentalist.[13]


  1. ^ "Executive Management | Santa Clara Valley Water".
  2. ^ a b c Tolman, C. F.; Poland, J. F. (1940). "Ground-water, salt-water infiltration, and ground-surface recession in Santa Clara Valley, Santa Clara County, California". Transactions, American Geophysical Union. 21 (1): 23. doi:10.1029/tr021i001p00023. ISSN 0002-8606.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao "Where Your Water Comes From | Santa Clara Valley Water". Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  4. ^ a b c "USGS SIR 2004-5231: Documentation of the Santa Clara Valley Regional Ground-Water/Surface-Water Flow Model, Santa Clara Valley, California". Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  5. ^ a b Ndah, Tony (2016-04-01). "The Buried Pipeline Replacement Era: A Cost-effectiveness Analysis of Pipeline Replacement Strategies for the Santa Clara Valley Water District". Master's Projects. doi:10.31979/etd.6zcq-378b.
  6. ^ "Dams Within the Jurisdiction of the State of California" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-01-06.
  7. ^ California Sustainability Alliance, Sustainability Showcase Awards, Received January 31st, 2011
  8. ^ Santa Clara Valley Water District, WET Program, Received January 31st, 2011
  9. ^ "Valley Water Board names Gary Kremen as 2022 chair". Santa Clara Valley Water District. 2022-01-12. Retrieved 2022-01-18.
  10. ^ "Santa Clara Valley Water District chairman to step down for 60 days following controversy over semi-nude photos". The Mercury News. 2022-03-03. Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  11. ^ "UPDATE: Will Silicon Valley water official face discipline for abuse of power?". The San Jose Spotlight. 2022-10-30. Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  12. ^ "Editorial: Report shows why voters should oust Kremen from Santa Clara Valley Water board". Mercury News. 2022-10-29. Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  13. ^ "Gary Kremen concedes Santa Clara Valley water district race; Eisenberg vows to oppose Pacheco Dam". Mercury News. 2022-11-17. Retrieved 2023-02-23.

External links[edit]