SAN JOSE (KPIX) – The largest Bay Area county is asking its residents to voluntarily conserve water before it’s too late.

“Only five out of the past 100 have been drier than this year,” board members of the Santa Clara Valley Water District reported Tuesday night.

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The board voted to ask residents to voluntarily cut back usage by 25 percent, and passed incentives to motivate people to conserve water.

Residents will now get $2 per square foot instead of $1 for replacing lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping and can receive up to $3,000 instead of $2,000 per household under its conservation incentives program.

Residents in Santa Clara County have been so good at conserving water for years that it’s paid off as the state enters yet another dry year.

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Santa Clara Valley Water District spokesperson Matt Keller said residents reduced annual water usage by 16 percent in 2020, and as high as 28 percent in 2016.

The results are adequate groundwater levels, which is keeping the county from declaring a drought for now, Keller said.

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“That means that water that didn’t go to use over the last couple of years is still in our storage banks and still in our groundwater,” said Keller.

Still, to keep the levels sufficient, the District plans to buy water from partners outside the county as well as draw water from its Central Valley storage bank.

Other Bay Area counties weren’t as lucky. On Tuesday, East Bay Municipal Utility District voted to declare a Stage 1 drought, and to ask residents for a 10 percent voluntary cut on water use.

In Marin County, the water district is banning car washing at homes among a list of other water conserving measures.

“Here we are entering back into these drought conditions, as the governor did in 2013,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said last Wednesday during a press conference about the state’s drought conditions.

Keller said now is the time for homeowners and landlords to take conservation measures, including changing to water saving shower heads, toilets and washing machines and dryers.

He said there are incentives, include cost savings, for both home and business owners that are detailed on watersavings.org.

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“There are programs for everybody,” Kellers said. “Whoever is paying that water bill should feel incentivized to want to reduce their water use, and we have a program to help them do that.”