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September 10, 2013 > Director Santos Speaks on water issues

Director Santos Speaks on water issues

Submitted By Frank De Smidt

Milpitas Rotary's August 19 featured speaker, Richard Santos, 3rd District Director of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, discussed early 20th Century valley activities, primarily agriculture that used well water, lowering water levels and causing the valley floor to sink.

Santos said leaders saw the need for a plan and the Santa Clara Valley Water Conservation District was formed in 1929 to build 17 large reservoirs to capture rainwater. Meanwhile the South Santa Clara Water District was formed to build percolation facilities and manage creeks and groundwater. Later the Central Santa Clara Valley Water Conservation District was established to manage groundwater in the Morgan Hill region.

Flooding became a serious issue in the '30's and '40's so in 1952 the county board of supervisors formed the Santa Clara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. Its goals were to protect the county from flooding and supplement local water supply with water imported from outside the valley. The "Christmas Week" floods of 1955 left thousands homeless; the Guadalupe River alone flooded 8,300 acres, the worst flood of that river in recorded history.

In 1960's the state of California began delivering water to Santa Clara County via the 72 inch South Bay Aqueduct, which brings water about 40 miles from the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta to the county.

Santos said that in 1968 the Santa Clara Valley Water Conservation District and the Santa Clara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District merged, forming one agency to manage the water supply and flood programs for most of the county.

By 1969 the addition of imported water to the local recharge efforts halted more than 40 years of land subsidence.

The Santa Clara Valley Flood Control and Water District changed its name to the Santa Clara Valley Water District in the '70's Santos said.

In 2000, county voters endorsed the Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan (Measure B) and approved a special tax to ensure continuity of flood protection and stream stewardship services for 15 more years.

And in 2009 the District Board called for 15% mandatory conservation in response to continuing water shortage; the recession caused significant District budget reductions.

Alviso resident Director Santos was first elected to the Water District in 2000 and has been reelected over the years with his current term ending in 2016.

He retired as a Fire Captain from the San Jose Fire Department with 33 years of service. During his tenure at the San Jose Fire Department he was elected vice chair for 12 years on the San Jose Police and Fire Retirement Board and was a labor representative of the San Jose Firefighters local union.

Richard earned his Bachelor's degree in public administration from Farelston and Nova Colleges and Associate's degrees in police science and fire science. He also has a lifetime teaching credential from the California Community College system, where he taught fire science at Mission College.

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