This commentary was contributed by Shawn Novack, water conservation program manager with the Water Resources Association San Benito County, San Benito County Water District. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

After two severely dry winters, reservoir water levels are shrinking, and water supplies are looking more tenuous.

In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an emergency proclamation directing state agencies to take immediate action to bolster drought resilience across the state and declaring a State of Emergency in Mendocino and Sonoma counties due to severe drought conditions in the Russian River Watershed.

On May 10, Newsom expanded his April drought emergency proclamation. In total, 41 counties are now under a drought state of emergency, representing 30% of the state’s population. The expanded drought emergency proclamation added San Benito County.

In April, the Bureau of Reclamations initial water allocation was for 50% of San Benito County Water District’s contracted amount for municipal and industrial (M&I) water that is imported into our county. Then, in one short month the allocation was slashed to 25% due to unprecedented hydrological conditions.

In May, early warm temperatures and extremely dry soils depleted the expected runoff water from the Sierra-Cascade snowpack, resulting in historic and unanticipated reductions in the amount of water flowing to major reservoirs, which impacts our imported water supply.

Fortunately, our county is in better shape than many others throughout the state.  In addition to being a source of water supply, our groundwater basin also provides emergency water storage for urban customers.

There are multiple challenges to maintaining and ensuring groundwater sustainability, including increasing uncertainty about the future availability of imported water, particularly with climate variability and with competing demands from over drafted basins elsewhere. In fact, during the last drought locally observed groundwater levels dropped. With a couple of years of significant rain and large allocations of imported water we have seen resiliency in our basin as water levels have risen to where the basin is almost full again. This really underscores the importance of imported water to our county.

However, our groundwater has a high mineral content and is being blended with imported surface water and delivered to City of Hollister and Sunnyslope County Water District customers. The blending of these waters has greatly improved our drinking water. With the reduction in available imported surface water City of Hollister and Sunnyslope County Water District customers will be receiving a higher percentage of groundwater. While you may see a slight change in water quality (higher hardness) this reduction in quality will be temporary. When the drought is over your water quality will return to normal.

Stage 1 -Voluntary Water Conservation is being implemented for customers of the City of Hollister, City of San Juan Bautista and the Sunnyslope County Water District. There is a special focus on landscape irrigation since over 50% of residential water use is for landscape irrigation in summer:

  1. Recommended watering hours: Watering or irrigating of lawn, landscape or other vegetated area with potable water is discouraged between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard/Daylight Savings Time.
  2. Recommended limit on watering duration: Watering or irrigating of lawn, landscape or other vegetated area with potable water using a landscape irrigation system or a watering device that is not continuously attended is recommended to be limited to no more than three days a week with a duration of fifteen (15) minutes watering per water day per station.
  3. Eliminate excessive water flow or runoff
  4. Discourage washing down hard or paved surfaces
  5. Fix leaks, breaks or malfunctions
  6. Recirculating water for water fountains and decorative water features: Operating a water fountain or other decorative water features that uses recirculated water is encouraged.
  7. Washing vehicles: Using water to wash or clean a vehicle, including but not limited to any automobile, truck, van, bus, motorcycle, boat, or trailer, whether motorized or not is discouraged, except by use of a hand-held bucket or similar container or a hand-held hose equipped with a positive self-closing water shut-off nozzle or device. Washing vehicles at commercial conveyor car wash systems with re-circulating water systems is recommended.
  8. Drinking water served upon request
  9. Commercial lodging establishments encouraged to provide guests option to decline daily linen services.
  10. Restaurants encouraged to use water conserving dishwash spray valves
  11. Pool covers: It is recommended that all existing pools use a pool cover or solar blanket to reduce water loss due to evaporation.

The Water Resources Association of San Benito County (WRASBC) can assist you in using water as efficiently as possible. This agency represents the City of San Juan Bautista, the City of Hollister, the Sunnyslope County Water District and the San Benito County Water District for all their water conservation programs.

Call the WRASBC today for a FREE leak check, irrigation system check and assistance in programming your controller to meet the provisions above. The WRASBC also has free self-closing water shut-off nozzles, signage for hotels, and water conserving dishwash spray valves for restaurants.

Call the WRASBC at (831) 637-4378 or visit their website at for rebates and water saving ideas. Every drop matters!