The future of water in San Benito County

Water supply is a key factor in the the county's future. Community involvement will help ensure that San Benito County residents will continue to have a safe and sufficient water supply

This article, the second of two parts, is presented by the Water Resources Association San Benito County. It details the recent history of San Benito County’s public water system. 

Today, San Benito County Water District manages the groundwater in the San Benito County portion of the Hollister-Gilroy basin, operates the San Benito River System and the San Felipe Distribution System, delivers imported Central Valley Project water to irrigation and municipal and industrial (M&I) customers, and manages recharge through local streams. The district is governed by an elected, five-member board of directors, and administered by the district manager/engineer.

Everyone in the Hollister-San Juan groundwater basin benefits from the imported water because the purchased water helps balance the overall water needs in the basin, is superior in quality to groundwater pumped from local aquifers, and is more conducive to crop growth. Local groundwater has varying levels of salts and high mineral content.

However, our underground aquifers are of utmost importance. Although our groundwater contains a high mineral content, the basin acts as an underground reservoir. Its storage capacity is approximately 500,000 acre-feet of water. For comparisons sake, San Luis Reservoir has a 2 million acre foot capacity. Our three above-ground reservoirs in our county (Hernandez, San Justo and Paicines) hold approximately 31,000 acre-feet combined.

Due to the drought, we have had very little rainfall or imported water for the past several years.Our groundwater basin has been the main source of our water supply (83 percent). This year’s Groundwater Report (December 2016), shows lowering of water levels throughout most of the basin. Hopefully, this year will be the beginning of a slow recovery from long-term drought. The basin was last full in 2011 and that’s what got us through this recent drought. We need to refill the basin once again with natural rainfall and imported water so that we can have a safeguard against future droughts that are sure to come again.

That’s why the Hollister Urban Area Water Project (HUAWP) is so important to our future. This is a joint effort by the City of Hollister, the San Benito County Water District and the Sunnyslope County Water District that will be completed by next summer.

The main goal is to improve drinking water quality for residents and businesses in the entire Hollister Urban Area. This will also help meet wastewater discharge requirements and protect the groundwater basin by having better quality wastewater. The project also produces a high quality recycled water for agricultural customers. This adds to our local water supply.

This plan represents the ongoing efforts to protect and maintain a reliable water supply. Each generation has had their way of improving and maintaining our water system. As we move into the future, sustainability is key.

To read Part 1 of this series on local water, click here.




Shawn Novack

Shawn Novack is the Director of the Water Resources Association of San Benito County. The Association represents the City of Hollister, the City of San Juan Bautista, the Sunnyslope County Water District and the San Benito County Water District for all their water conservation and water resource protection programs. Shawn has been in the field of water conservation for 18 years. He has a certification as a Water Conservation Practioner from the American Water Works Association California/Nevada Chapter. He also is a Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor through the Irrigation Association in Virginia. Before getting into the water industry, Shawn worked as a technical writer for the Naval Research Center in Monterey.