Member Spotlight: Valley Water – July 2019

  • by Will Holbert
  • Jul 19, 2019
  • Newsletters

Workers release water into Valley Water’s Madrone Channel Outlet. Groundwater replenishment has been a top priority for the South San Francisco Bay Area agency since its founding in 1929.

Valley Water Celebrates 90 Years of Accomplishments

For nearly a century, Valley Water has transformed a sinking valley of orchards with the help of a complex water system involving reservoirs, percolation ponds, treatment plants, and vast pipeline networks, to support the world’s technology hub. Now in its 90th year, the agency is celebrating its dedication to proactive groundwater management, a core tenet of its founding. Groundwater accounts for almost half the water used in Santa Clara County, making it a critical lifeline for Silicon Valley.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District, now known as Valley Water, was founded in 1929 in response to overdrawn groundwater basins, land, and the increasingly clear need for central water management and conservation. This effort was led by local farmers and business leaders who recognized the critical link between economic prosperity and a reliable water supply.

To address the sinking valley floor, early Valley Water leaders took swift action in finding a way to replenish groundwater. In the 1930s, the agency built six surface water reservoirs to capture stormwater and four additional reservoirs were constructed in the 1950s. Leaders also strategically built percolation pond systems in areas where natural gravel allows for water to easily seep down and refill aquifers. This was the start of something big — regional water reliability and groundwater recovery.

However, a surging valley population strained groundwater resources and subsidence continued. Between 1915 and 1969, downtown San Jose had permanently sunk by nearly 13 feet. The region’s water demands quickly outpaced existing supplies, so a contract with the State of California allowed Valley Water to start bringing water in from state-owned reservoirs outside of the county. In the 1960s and 70s Valley Water built two drinking water treatment plants to treat local and imported surface water, which helped reduce groundwater pumping and relieve pressure from aquifers.

By 1970, the agency had essentially halted permanent subsidence through an integrated water system that made use of imported and diversified local water supplies. In the next two decades, the agency would work to obtain additional imported water and build its third drinking water treatment plant.

Originally known as the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the agency acted swiftly during its early years to build storage. A 1950 photograph shows the construction of the Anderson Dam spillway.

Over the course of 50 years, Valley Water built a reliable and sustainable system with diverse sources and major valley pipelines that could convey surface water from reservoirs to treatment plants and percolation ponds. This unique and ingenious method of ensuring a reliable water supply while guarding against subsidence drew the attention of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which designated Valley Water’s system a Historical Engineering Landmark in 1976.

As a special district and not a direct water retailer nor a land use agency, Valley Water’s role in groundwater management is unique. To help protect groundwater quality, Valley Water regulates the construction, maintenance, and destruction of all wells in Santa Clara County. By providing free water quality testing and rebates for nitrate treatment for domestic wells, the agency helps ensure well owners are empowered as community partners in protecting groundwater resources

Just as critical as preserving groundwater is fostering a close relationship with the community. Valley Water strives for transparency in groundwater operations. The annual rate-setting process engages the stakeholders and residents with an opportunity to learn and opine on the rates levied to protect and augment water supplies.

To ensure its ability to continue protecting the region’s groundwater resources and supporting a healthy life, environment and economy for the residents and businesses of Santa Clara County, Valley Water conducted a groundwater benefit zone study. The study reassessed areas benefitting from groundwater management activities to help ensure fair and equitable charges for well users. An independent panel of experts reviewed the study and the resulting proposed benefit zones that reflect the variance of benefits in the region. The proposed zones were presented this spring and will be implemented contingent on approval of the Valley Water Board of Directors, which is expected to occur this summer. 

Ensuring a reliable water supply for nearly 2 million people requires a multi-faceted approach. Valley Water’s groundwater management programs have pioneered local water resource management for almost a century and are constantly evolving to meet the needs of a ever-growing valley.


Suggested Resources

15 RESOURCES prev next
Federal Legislative Matrix

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Federal Regulatory Issues Chart

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Priority Issues Bulletin

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

ACWA and CMUA Lead Service Line Inventory Webinar Materials

On Dec. 17, in cooperation with the State Water Resource Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water, ACWA and CMUA hosted […]

Comment Letter: ACWA and CMUA Comment on Proposed ELAP Regulations

Agencies: ACWA and California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) Subject: Comments on Proposed Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) Regulations Description: ACWA and […]

Coalition Letter on Strategic Plan to Protect CA’s Coast and Ocean

Associations: Association of California Water Agencies, California Association of Sanitation Agencies, California Municipal Utilities Association, Bay Area Clean Water Agencies, […]

2020 ACWA Scholarship Toolkit

To assist  members in promoting available ACWA scholarship opportunities, the association has updated its Scholarship Toolkit for the 2020-’21 academic […]

ACWA 2019 Fall Conference Presentations

Presentations from ACWA’s 2019 Fall Conference & Exhibition held Dec. 3-6 in San Diego are available below. Please note that […]

ACWA’S 2019 Fall Legal Briefing and CLE Workshop Materials

The following presentations and materials for ACWA’s 2019 Legal Briefing and CLE Workshop on Dec. 3 from 9 a.m. to […]

Outreach Handbook

ACWA’s Outreach Handbook is a valuable tool for engaging legislators, key regulators and administration officials on policy issues that are […]

Groundwater Replenishment Framework

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) has prepared A Technical Framework for Increasing Groundwater Replenishment in response to a […]

Comment Letter: ACWA and CMUA Comment on OEHHA Draft Report

Agencies: ACWA and California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) Subject: Comments on the Public Review Draft Mapping Tool and Draft Report, Achieving […]

2019 Summary of Legislation

ACWA’s 2019 Summary of Legislation provides concise information on legislation enacted in the first year of the 2019-’20 legislative session that […]

ACWA’s 2019 Regulatory Summit Materials

Water managers and water quality specialists attended the ninth annual ACWA Regulatory Summit on Oct. 17 to learn about the […]

Coalition Letter on Water Loss Regulations

Agency: ACWA, CMUA and various water agencies Subject: Comments on the Development of Water Loss Performance Standards and Economic Model […]

Suggested News

15 Articles prev next
ACWA News for Jan. 17, 2020

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Capitalizing on ACWA Capital Events

Nothing gets your point across quite like making it in person.  Consider the members of the state legislative and congressional […]

Spotlight: New Habitat Restoration – January 2020

New Habitat Restoration Project Nurtures Record Number of Salmon Nests on American River Kat Perkins, a scientist with the Sacramento […]

Prepare for Emergencies, Get Free Supplies for Kits at Let’s Talk H2O! with PWD

PALMDALE – To help community members prepare for emergencies, Palmdale Water District (PWD) will provide information and FREE supplies to […]

TUD Awarded Steel Tank of the Year

The Steel Tank Institute (STI)/Steel Plate Fabricators Association (SPFA) awarded the Tuolumne Utilities District’s (TUD or District) Jamestown Water Tank […]

West Valley Water District Announces Channing Hawkins as Board President

RIALTO – Please join us in welcoming our new President of West Valley Water District Board of Directors, Channing Hawkins. […]

Governor Releases Proposed 2020-’21 State Budget

Gov. Gavin Newsom released his proposed Fiscal Year 2020-’21 budget Jan. 10 for the State of California, calling for $222 […]

January Priority Issues Update Available to Members

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Community Members Learn About Their Water Supply at WVWD Open House

WALNUT – On Saturday, January 11 community members from Diamond Bar, Walnut, West Covina, Rowland Heights, and Pomona attended Walnut […]

NID Directors Select New Board President and Vice President

Nevada Irrigation District (NID) Directors have selected their new officers for 2020. Ricki Heck will serve as board president, and […]

Rancho California Appoints Board President and Vice President

The Board of Directors at Rancho California Water District have appointed Bill Wilson to serve as board president for 2020. […]

ACWA 2020-’21 Region Board Vacancies

ACWA is currently looking for members to fill three Region Board Member positions. Members interested in leading the direction of […]

Western Employees Start 2020 Thriving and Healthy

RIVERSIDE – Western Municipal Water District received two workplace honors in 2019, combining physically healthy employees with a thriving work […]

New Habitat Restoration Project Nurtures Record Number of Salmon Nests

Kat Perkins, a scientist with the Sacramento Water Forum, poured over an aerial image of the lower American River near […]

Mesa Water District Announces Passing of Former Board Members

COSTA MESA — It is with great sadness that Mesa Water District (Mesa Water®) announces the passing of former Board members R. […]