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February 10, 2010 > Recent storms drenched the South Bay

Recent storms drenched the South Bay

What does this mean for our water supply?

Over the last month Santa Clara County has been hit hard by storms. We've seen everything from rain and thunderstorms to lightning and hail. Fortunately, due to good maintenance, projects getting done and a lot of luck, we haven't seen any major flooding at this time.

This is due in large part to the water district's Stream Maintenance Program. Each year crews work hard between June and October to clear out the creeks in preparation for storms. The major types of maintenance include removing sediment, invasive vegetation, trash and debris and also repairing eroded creek banks. And where floodwater did rise, the district was ready with sandbags provided at no charge to the public. The district's sandbag sites were open throughout the county and will remain open until the rainy season passes. So far this season, the district has delivered more than 66,000 sand bags and 165 tons of sand to the distribution sites.

While storms like these can cause problems, such as flooding or downed trees, they also bring our valley it's most precious resource - water. This series of storms has brought a significant amount of water to our local reservoirs. In total, we've picked up more than 34,000 acre-feet of water, or about 11 billion gallons. That's enough water for 68,000 families over a year.

Does this mean the drought is over? It is still too early in the season to say. The water district tried to capture as much of the rain as possible over the past couple of weeks. As a result, reservoir storage has risen to about 62% of our 10-reservoir storage capacity.

The water captured from this storm series is a good start and right now the snowpack is looking good, but we still don't know how much water we'll receive from our imported source. Imported water -from the Sierra Snowpack conveyed through the Bay-Delta makes up about half of our county's water supply. We have to see what the rest of the winter brings in terms of rain and snow. We won't know what this means for the statewide drought until we're closer to the end of the season.

This is why conserving our water supply is still important. We have to remember that there is a call for 15 percent mandatory conservation in place and that if we all save 20 gallons a day; together we can make a difference. There are many easy ways to reach our water saving goals, like turning off our irrigation systems during the winter. And though this may seem like a common sense simple thing to do, even during these heavy storms, I still saw sprinklers going in the rain.

To make sure everyone stays safe and dry this flood season, I've included storm and flood safety tips below:

Make sure storm drain inlets are clear of leaves and other blockages so that rainwater can flow into the storm drain system, rather than backing up and causing street flooding.

Report downed trees and other storm-related blockages to the water district's watershed hotline (408) 265-2607 ext. 2378 during business hours or use the Access Valley Water online reporting system which can be found at

If you use sandbags, keep in mind that they are most effective when used to prevent flooding from one-foot-or-less of water from entering a home or business through doorways and garage door openings; please take only 20 to 30 bags per vehicle.

Please remember, sandbag sites run by the water district, cities or the county, are operated on the honor system as a flood protection service to residents. The bags are not meant for use in construction or gardening activities. To receive flood-safety alerts and other tips, text the word "WATER" to 84444.

As always, I am available for questions or comments as your District 3 representative for Sunnyvale; Alviso; Milpitas; and the Berryessa/Alum Rock communities, east of Highway 101 to the Evergreen community area. Feel free to contact me at (408) 234-7707.

Director Richard Santos
Santa Clara Valley Water District

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