San Jose Water Company Looks to Implement Tough Water Conservation Rules

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In a serious call to action, the San Jose Water Company is asking the state for approval to issue what many believe will be the toughest water conservation rules of any major city in the state.

There are going to be a lot of brown lawns and some lawns will probably disappear altogether once the mandatory restrictions are approved and the message is simple -- make the cuts or get ready for a bigger water bill.

The private company supplies drinking water to about one million users throughout the South Bay, including San Jose, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Campbell and Saratoga. 

If approved, San Jose Water will require customers to cut back water use by 15% of their 2019 levels. That's the cut recommended by its supplier, Santa Clara Valley Water District, which declared a drought emergency in June.

“We saw a 1% decrease in June, a 6% decrease in July, and an 8% decrease in August,” said Liann Walborsky, San Jose Water Company communications director. “So people are trying, but we need them to try harder.”

So what happens if you don't make the cuts? You'll get hit with a surcharge of $7.13 for each water unit you go over. 

The water company says a unit is 748 gallons and for perspective, the average shower uses about 10 gallons. 

The Water District offers free water-saving products. 

“There are people out there who obviously have some room for improvement, and we just ask those people to take advantage of our rebates,” said Matt Keller, water district spokesperson. “Think about your water use and how they can reduce their outdoor watering.”

In fact, the water district says half the local water use is outdoors. The Almaden Valley Nursery, which specializes in drought resistant plants, says the cooler fall and winter is the time to make changes. 

“That way the roots can get more established before the heat comes next year and you won’t have to use as much water to keep them alive,” said Nick Esquivel, nursery manager. 

People at the nursery said the new rules are fair but painful. 

“My initial reaction was ‘oh no.. we’re going to have to start cutting back immediately,’” said Chucho Torrente of San Jose. 

The CPUC is holding a public hearing on the changes Oct. 28 and if approved, the mandatory cuts go into effect Nov. 15 -- one month from Friday.

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