SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The board of the largest water agency in Santa Clara County on Wednesday unanimously declared a water shortage emergency and recommended mandatory use restrictions,

The Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to declare the emergency and recommend the county impose a mandatory 15% decrease in water use for its residents.

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“To better deal with these threats and the emergency they are causing, today my fellow Board Members and I unanimously declared a water shortage emergency condition in Santa Clara County,” read a statement issued by Board Chair Tony Estremera. “This declaration, which is among the strongest actions we can take under law, allows Valley Water to work with our retailers, cities and the county to implement regulations and restrictions on the delivery and
consumption of water.”

Water officials say the area needs to decrease water use by 15% from 2019 levels countywide as the outlook on the area’s water levels continues to look dire.

“This is an emergency,” Valley Water CEO Rick Callender said. “Our water supplies are in serious jeopardy. Valley Water will protect our groundwater resources by all reasonable means necessary and ensure we can provide safe, clean water to Santa Clara County. Every drop of water saved is a drop we can use in the future.”

“While this large drop is concerning, conditions will be far worse in 2022 if drought conditions continue and no action is taken. That is why we recommend action now because water use reduction takes time to implement and the current condition is unprecedented,” Valley Water District COO Aaron Baker told KPIX.

People who love to garden say the restrictions will be expensive and hard to achieve because many have kept the cutbacks imposed in the last drought.

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“We’ve already been cutting back. So we might have to go with more succulent type plants instead of plants that need more water,” said San Jose resident Al Smith.

The Santa Clara County Valley Water District is the largest water agency to push local governments for mandatory water restrictions. The push comes as the Anderson Dam is at 3% capacity and the county is having a hard time buying water from other sources.

“We’re having problems buying water on the open market because everyone else is buying it at the same time. The price is like 10 times what it was two years ago,” said Vice-Chair of the SCVWD Board of Directors Gary Kremen.

Drought conditions have worsen throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and many local agencies in charge of water have pushed for residents to decrease usage. For example, water agencies in the Tri-Valley area (which includes Livermore, Dublin and San Ramon) recently asked locals to reduce their usage by 10%. In some areas like Marin County, residents failed to meet this voluntary goal.

But the Santa Clara Valley Water District wants mandatory reductions for the first time since the historic drought period from 2012-2016. The 15% mandatory decrease is actually less than the 25% that the water district hopes residents will voluntarily impose on themselves.

Causing further issues, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered Anderson Reservoir to be drained during a massive renovation project. Anderson Reservoir is the largest drinking water reservoir and it’s expected to be unusable for the next 10 years during the Anderson Dam Tunnel Project and Seismic Retrofit Project.

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Len Ramirez contributed to this report.