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March 6, 2012 > Groundwater: More precious than gold

Groundwater: More precious than gold

By Richard Santos

In today's economy everyone knows about the value of gold. But what many don't realize is that there is an even more precious resource, water. And with rainfall shortages and restrictions on our imported water supplies, groundwater is proving to be more important than ever. This year, in fact, it has been groundwater to the rescue for Santa Clara County. With record low rainfall, we will rely heavily on our groundwater supplies this summer which, thanks to the Santa Clara Valley Water District's effective groundwater recharge program, are in good shape.

Groundwater, our valley's original water source, is water that flows beneath the surface through small pores and cracks in the rock and soil. Throughout the world, the majority of available fresh water is in the form of groundwater. Due to the geography of our region, our groundwater basins have a vast storage capacity, estimated to be two times the size of the district's 10 surface reservoirs combined. This is why in Santa Clara County, nearly half of all water used comes from groundwater.

While groundwater basins are naturally replenished by rainfall, natural recharge is not enough. In order to replenish the amount of groundwater pumped in Santa Clara County, the district has a groundwater recharge program to percolate local and imported water through recharge facilities, which include streams and 393 acres of recharge ponds. The recharge program allows us to capitalize on wet years by storing water for use during droughts and shortages. Actively managing the groundwater basin also has the major benefit of preventing land subsidence, or land surface sinking, which is very damaging to property and costly to the community.

The water district also looks after the quality of our groundwater. Numerous sources can pollute groundwater, making it costly to treat or even unusable. Since the restoration of contaminated groundwater can take years, decades, or longer, the district aggressively protects the groundwater basins from contamination and the threat of contamination. The district's groundwater protection programs allow us to assess regional groundwater quality, identify and evaluate threats, and help prevent or mitigate contamination.

This month we are celebrating Groundwater Awareness Week (March 11-17) by hosting a community open house on March 14 between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the water district's headquarters, located at 5750 Almaden Expressway in San Jose.

In addition to informing the community about groundwater, this free event will provide the general public and neighbors with insight on water delivery, water treatment, water conservation, water supply, flood protection and environmental stewardship. Tours of the Los Alamitos percolation pond and Guadalupe River fish ladder will be provided and water magic and short demonstrations for children are included as part of the event's festivities.

Children are welcome and light refreshments will be served. Parking is plentiful and electric vehicle charge stations are available. RSVP at or call (408) 265-2607, ext. 2880.

Remember, even though we currently enjoy a healthy supply of groundwater, it is important that we use water wisely. If our dry weather persists, groundwater supplies, as well as imported water supplies, can diminish quickly. To learn more about how you can use water more efficiently and participate in free water efficient landscape workshops, visit

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.

Groundwater Awareness Open House
Wednesday, Mar 14
4 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Tours and demonstrations
Santa Clara Valley Water District
5750 Almaden Expressway, San Jose
(408) 265-2607, ext. 2880

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