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December 30, 2009 > Water Supply Outlook

Water Supply Outlook

Submitted By Kathleen Phalen

The State of California is entering the fourth year of drought with its State Water Project reservoirs only about half full, but with a slightly better outlook for normal or even above normal precipitation this winter. According to the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, an El Nio weather pattern developed in the Pacific Ocean this fall and is expected to continue through the early spring; however, it is still too early to tell how much water this will bring to northern California watersheds. An extended Pacific jet stream in early December brought several storms with much-needed precipitation to California and the outlook for January through March 2010 indicates continued improvement to the long-standing drought conditions.

The City of Milpitas obtains water from three sources and each source has its individual supply characteristics. Approximately 62% of our water comes from the San Francisco Hetch Hetchy system largely in the High Sierras. San Francisco Public Utilities Commission managers have proactively managed this supply in the face of drought and enter the 2010 water year with reservoir storage at about 90% of maximum which is good for this time of year. SFPUC continues to call for 10% voluntary conservation from its customers. To date, Bay Area Hetch Hetchy customers have exceeded this goal with a cutback of about 12%.

Approximately 31% of the City's water is treated surface water from the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which purchases a portion of this water from the State Water Project drawing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. On December 1, the Department of Water Resources announced it could deliver only 5% of its contract supply to Santa Clara Valley Water District and other State Water Project customers in 2010. The State is expected to increase this initial allotment if winter precipitation improves its supply. On December 8, The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors extended their call for 15% mandatory conservation through June 2010 to send a strong message to the community that conservation is still needed. To date, District customers have been responsive with a countywide cutback of 18%. Milpitas customers have reduced water use 19%.

Approximately 7% of the City's supply is actually non-potable recycled water obtained from the South Bay Water Recycling Program and used by about 170 commercial and industrial customers for landscape irrigation and industrial processes. Since this water is produced from readily available, highly-treated wastewater, it is not subject to a conservation goal. In fact, its use by Milpitas commercial customers conserves the City's potable water supply for all.

The City of Milpitas continues to encourage our customers to use water wisely. Eliminating waste not only conserves water resources, it also saves money and energy, since it is expensive to treat and pump water throughout the distribution systems. Milpitas residents and business can take advantage of numerous conservation and rebate programs for home audits, landscaping, high-efficiency toilets, and washing machines offered by the Santa Clara Valley Water District, as described online at and click on programs or call (408) 265-2607, extension 2554. Residents should also watch for a utility bill insert announcing free low-water use landscaping classes offered this spring in Milpitas and nearby cities by the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.

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