LOS GATOS (KPIX 5) – Los Gatos Creek runs from the Lexington Reservoir in the Santa Cruz Mountains to Downtown San Jose. On Tuesday, the water supply to the creek was cut by about 60 percent as South Bay water officials try to conserve what little water they have to work with.
The creek runs right through the middle of the Santa Clara Valley and is popular with joggers and cyclists, as well as birds, wildlife and fish.
Lexington Reservoir, which feeds the creek, is at less than 20 percent of capacity. By drastically cutting the amount of water released from the reservoir, water managers hope to avoid a situation where the water level drops below the intakes.
If that were to happen, no water at all could be released into Los Gatos Creek and the entire ecosystem could die.
“Well obviously the fish in that part of the creek are not going to survive. We are hoping that by keeping part of the creek wet that fish upstream will survive,” said Marty Grimes of the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
In the next few days, Los Gatos Creek is expected to start drying up near Downtown San Jose, and gradually will also dry up through most of Campbell as well.
As with some lesser known creeks which have already felt the full impact of the drought, fish will begin to die.
Photos from Alamitos and Ross Creeks show dead fish as well as backwater areas which eventually dry up completely, or else leave the fish exposed for predators.
“Well, we have a variety of native species – Sacramento suckers, prickly sculpin, there’s probably a few steelhead trout,” said Jae Able, a water district biologist. “That’s kind of the strategy – hang on to something as a seed for the future.”
Abel said when the creek fully dries up other wildlife will also start looking for water. “And I would not be surprised if people start seeing some wildlife in the backyard as well looking for a drink of water off the planter box or the backyard pool,” he said.
Water managers said they there are no options to relocate the fish, as there are simply no suitable places to take them.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has also reviewed and signed off on this plan as a result of the drought.