County Adopts Permanent Residential Water Conservation Measures for Unincorporated Areas

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On Feb. 10, 2015, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved a new ordinance for residential water conservation and water uses for unincorporated areas.  The ordinance establishes permanent and mandatory water waste and conservation measures.  The Board took the action in anticipation of an ongoing need to prepare for and respond to limited water supplies.  Santa Clara County is a semi-arid region and is dependent upon local surface water, groundwater, and imported water supplies. A growing population, climate change, environmental concerns, and other factors throughout the Western states make the region highly susceptible to water supply reliability issues.
Restrictions established by the ordinance are consistent with prohibitions adopted by municipalities throughout the county. They are simple and effective measures to achieve greater water savings.
The permanent residential water waste and water conservation ordinance will prohibit the following acts by any individuals in the unincorporated areas of the county:

  • The application of water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff;
  • The use of a hose that dispenses water to wash a vehicle, unless the hose is equipped with an automatic shut-off valve;
  • The application of water to paved areas and hardscapes, such as driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks;
  • The use of water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated;
  • The failure to fix outdoor water leaks within seven days of notification by the County;
  • The application of water to outdoor landscapes during the daylight hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., unless by use of a bucket, hose equipped with an automatic shutoff valve, or low-flow drip-type irrigation system.

 The use of water from a recycled water, gray water, or rainwater utilization system is exempt from the ordinance.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) set a 20 percent water use reduction target in February 2014 to ensure adequate groundwater reserves for 2015.  Water use data through December indicate that the county has realized a cumulative savings of 13 percent, compared with the same period in 2013. Groundwater levels in San Jose dropped 45 feet below their five-year average. To restore groundwater reserves to normal, water use reductions will need to continue in 2015 even if the area experiences normal winter rains.  The SCVWD has extended its call for a 20 percent water use reduction for Santa Clara County through June 2015.

Ordinance enforcement

The County is working in concert with SCVWD to enforce the ordinance. Following outreach by the SCVWD, and if the water waste is of a type that is prohibited by the Santa Clara County Ordinance Code, the County will issue a written warning to the responsible party and deliver a copy of the applicable section of the ordinance by mail.  Any subsequent verified water waste violations occurring at that same location would be addressed by the County’s Zoning Investigators, through issuance of escalating administrative fines.

Water waste complaints in unincorporated Santa Clara County are to be directed to the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which will receive reports of waste in any of the following manners:

Since early last year, the County of Santa Clara has been actively engaged in water conservation efforts, examining water conservation measures in place at County facilities, working with local and regional partners, and identifying strategies to reduce water use.

Information about water conservation can be found at

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