Water budgets and drought fees coming to 1 million residents in San Jose and neighboring communities

In the latest fallout from the worsening drought, residents of San Jose — which received the lowest rainfall in its recorded history last year — and surrounding communities are about to be given tougher water conservation rules than any major city in California.

The San Jose Water Company, a private firm that provides drinking water to 1 million people in San Jose, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga and Monte Sereno, has begun sending notices to residents informing them it is moving forward with mandatory rules to set monthly residential water budgets with financial penalties for homeowners who exceed them.

The system, which the company last put in place in 2015 and 2016 during California’s previous drought, will require residential customers to cut water use 15% from 2019 levels or pay surcharges on their water bills.

“The last drought was for five years. We’re in the second year of this one,” said John Tang, vice president of San Jose Water Company. “We don’t know how long it will go on. Every drop of water that we can save now is going to blunt the pain that we feel next year.”

Tang noted that reservoirs around Northern California and in Santa Clara County are at record-low levels.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “We’re hopeful Mother Nature is going to deliver this winter. But hope is not always a good strategy.”

The company will hold a public hearing on Oct. 28, and if its proposed rules are approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, as expected, they will take effect on Nov. 15.

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The water conservation target comes from Silicon Valley’s largest water provider, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a government agency in San Jose. The district is the wholesale water provider for the county. It buys water from federal and state agencies, maintains groundwater and 10 local reservoirs, and sells it to cities and private water companies like San Jose Water that deliver it to homes and businesses.

“We’re all in this together,” said Rick Callender, CEO of the district, on Thursday. “Everybody needs to do their part. This drought is super serious.”

On June 9, the district’s seven-member elected board of directors declared a water shortage emergency and told cities and private water companies in the county to cut water use 15% from 2019 levels, the most recent non-drought year.

That cut is the equivalent of a 33% reduction from 2013 levels — the baseline before the prior drought. In response, local cities and other water providers have asked the public to conserve, by such measures as watering landscaping no more than twice a week. But there is almost no enforcement. And so far county residents are failing to meet the 15% conservation target.

In August, they cut water use by 9% from August 2019 levels, up from 6% in July.

“We’re heading in the right direction. We have to keep moving forward,” Callender said.

Statewide, California’s current drought is the most severe since 1976-77.

This past year, San Jose experienced its driest year in 128 …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

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