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April 15, 2009 > Water supply outlook

Water supply outlook

Submitted By Kathleen Phalen

The City of Milpitas continues to ask its customers for 10% voluntary water conservation while staff analyzes the best methods to reduce its District water purchases to 85% of normal. Later this spring, the City will issue its customer specific guidance, probably in a bill insert, to let them know what voluntary actions are asked of them.

The City received several reports and communications from its water wholesalers, including the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) Annual Survey for FY07-08 and the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) 2009 Water Utility Enterprise Report, which together provide an overview of the City's current water supply situation.

Milpitas has a water service population of 69,419 and has 16,272 water utility accounts. In FY07-08, the City used 11.37 million gallons per day (MGD) of water, 60.3% of this purchased from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), 32.3% from the SCVWD, and 7.4% as recycled water from San Jose's South Bayside Water Recycling Program.

Milpitas residential per capita consumption is a relatively low 70.3 gallons per day as compared to a BAWSCA service area average of 90 gallons per person per day. Milpitas average monthly single family residential use is 1,200 cubic feet (9,000 gallons).

The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors adopted a resolution a declaring a conservation alert and calling for 15% mandatory water conservation (as measured against the base year of 2004) for the remainder of 2009. This action replaces the District's previous call for 10% voluntary conservation issued on December 17, 2007. According to the District's January 2009 Water Tracker Report, the countywide average response fell a little short at about 7% last year. However, this report also states that Milpitas exceeded the goal with the greatest water savings in the county of 12.5%.

Although the District describes its March 24 resolution as "mandatory conservation," it continues to be a request for increased voluntary conservation rather their decision to limit wholesale water deliveries. The District's intention is to encourage and support retailers, including the City of Milpitas, to take action to increase conservation. The District Board Chair will be sending a letter to the Mayors of all 15 cities and towns in Santa Clara County urging cities to increase water conservation efforts. In addition, the District plans to spend $2 million on a media campaign to broadcast the conservation message throughout the Santa Clara County.

Milpitas staff has been actively participating in a number of SCVWD staff committees to plan for conservation and have closely monitored this issue. The City understands and supports the District's goals for water conservation. The District and other customers of the Federal and State Water Project have had their deliveries reduced due to pumping restrictions imposed by the Court to protect the Delta Smelt. Also, across the State, the State Water Project reservoir storage has been impacted by three years of below average precipitation. It is important to note that the Hetch Hetchy system, owned and operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, is independent of the State Water Project and has not been as severely impact by the drought.

The City of Milpitas is now analyzing how best to respond to the District's request for increased conservation in a manner that will be fair and minimally disruptive to the City's customers. All the cities in the District's service area are in different situations with regard to water supply.

Milpitas already has a water conservation ordinance in place and has a Water Shortage Contingency Plan as part of its Urban Water Management Plan, a planning document required by the State of California guide City's planned consumption and conservation of water. Staff will compare these City code restrictions and planned procedures to evaluate if they satisfy the District's request for conservation. The City's customers who are served the District supply area are largely commercial and industrial businesses.

The manner in which these customers typically use and are therefore able to conserve water in the not same as for residents. For example, advice to limit showers or turn off faucets while brushing teeth does not provide helpful guidance to businesses. Therefore, staff will evaluate the potential benefits and impacts to these businesses from the District's proposed model ordinance before making any recommending changes to City ordinances.

Over 60% of the City's water supply comes from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Hetch Hetchy system. SFPUC is reasonably confident that this year's supplies are adequate to meet demand and so will likely ask for no more than 10% voluntary conservation. SFPUC's final determination will be made in mid-April after it completes the April 1 snow pack measurements. SFPUC is satisfied that its system-wide customers are achieving a 12% consumption reduction which exceeds their 10% conservation goal.

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