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August 28, 2012 > Restoring the Delta is essential to Santa Clara County

Restoring the Delta is essential to Santa Clara County

By Richard Santos, Santa Clara Valley Water District

The Delta is a critical component of our water system. Here in the Silicon Valley, 40 percent of our water supply passes through the Delta. Our imported water comes from the Sierra Nevada snowmelt and rainfall that fills rivers and streams that flow toward the San Francisco Bay. Much of that mountain water flows through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to communities throughout the Bay Area.

Yet, after decades of alterations, the Delta is far from the natural estuary it once was. The Delta's 150-year old man-made network of levees is old and fragile. It is the hub of California's water system, providing drinking water to 25 million Californians.

Without an effective conservation and renewal strategy, the Delta's sensitive ecosystem and water transport system will continue to deteriorate, threatening the delivery of safe, reliable drinking water to the nearly 1.8 million residents that we serve.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District and other public water agencies, environmental and conservation organizations, state and federal agencies, farmers and other interest groups have been working since 2006 on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). These parties have spent countless hours and millions of dollars to understand the environmental science and address competing interests for Delta-conveyed water.

The statewide BDCP effort is attempting to achieve water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration for the Delta. To sustain our economy and our way of life, we must find a balanced solution that restores the Delta ecosystem and assures long-term sustainable water supplies.

As the name implies, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a comprehensive habitat conservation plan for the recovery of threatened and endangered species and benefit of the environment. New science is showing the need to address stresses on the Delta's environment, as well as the timing and quantity of flows and diversions. The BDCP proposes to restore as much as 113,000 acres of tidal marsh and other habitat, an unprecedented restoration plan covering nearly the same land mass as the city of San Jose.

Studies by researchers at UC Davis identified a two-thirds chance of major Delta levee failures within the next 20 years. This would not only have a major effect on the residents of the Delta, but also on our region and statewide water supply.

Locally, we are continuing to reduce our reliance on the Delta. Thanks to our ongoing conservation efforts, today we use 15 percent less water than we did in 1990, even though our population has grown by 300,000 people. We also actively maintain and protect our groundwater basin, storing water underground during wet years for use during dry years. In addition, we are teaming with the city of San Jose to construct a state-of-the-art advanced water purification facility to expand our use of locally sourced recycled water.

However, we cannot solve this problem by addressing only the demand side of the equation. Nor can we attempt to force a solution that secures supplies for one stakeholder group over another. Instead, all parties must compromise to reach a balanced solution that restores the health of the Delta ecosystem and assures sustainable water supplies.

To learn more about how we can all work together to restore the Delta, view our Delta brochure at www.valleywater.org.

As always, I am available for questions or comments as your District 3 representative for the northern areas of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara; Alviso; Milpitas; and the north San Jose and Berryessa communities. Feel free to contact me at (408) 234-7707.

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