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Drought FAQs

Review our FAQs to learn more about this extreme drought and what we can do together to overcome it. 

1. Are we in danger of running out of water?

While the County is not in danger of running out of water, we don’t know what next year or the year after that will bring. That’s why it’s critical that we do everything we can to meet Valley Water’s 15% mandatory call for conservation. 

Even if we achieve it, and it’s another critically dry year, Valley Water may call for an increased level of conservation in 2022. The amount of water we save today may blunt the overall effect of another dry year(s) ahead.  We can’t control what Mother Nature gives us, but we can control how we respond to it.

2. What are the conservation rules in effect?

Most of the rules are currently focused on outdoor water use which accounts for half of the total use of an average household. Rules currently in effect include:

  • Limits on Watering Days: Watering or irrigating of lawns, landscape or other vegetated areas with potable water is limited to two days per week. Irrigation will be allowed Mondays and Thursdays for odd numbered and numberless addresses and will be allowed on Tuesdays and Fridays for even numbered addresses.
  • Limits on Watering: Watering or irrigating of outside plants, lawn, landscape, and turf areas with potable water using a landscape irrigation system or a watering device that is not continuously attended is limited to no more than 15 minutes of watering per day per station, with no watering between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. This provision does not apply to landscape irrigation zones that exclusively use drip-type irrigation systems. This provision also does not apply to low precipitation sprinkler systems that apply water at or less than 1.0 inch per hour. This provision also does not apply to watering or irrigating by use of a hand-held bucket or similar container, a hand-held hose equipped with a positive action shut-off nozzle or device that causes it to cease dispensing water immediately when not in use, or for the express purpose of adjusting or repairing an irrigation system. However, no irrigation can occur regardless of method that results in runoff.
  • Use of potable water for watering outside plants, lawn, landscape, and turf areas during and up to 48 hours after measurable rainfall.
  • The use of potable water in a fountain or other decorative water device that does not have a fully automatic recirculation system, or the filling or topping off of decorative lakes or ponds, except where the water is part of a recirculating system.
  • Limits on Filling Decorative Fountains or Ornamental Lakes or Ponds: prohibition of the use of potable water for filling or re-filling decorative fountains, ornamental lakes or ponds more than one foot, except when fountains or ponds/lakes are drained for repairs, and except to the extent needed to sustain aquatic life in ponds/lakes, provided that such animals are of significant value and have been actively managed within the water feature prior to declaration of a supply shortage level under this Rule.
  • Limits on Washing Vehicles: Washing of vehicles, except at a commercial car washing facility that utilizes recycled water or re-circulating water system to capture or reuse water.
  • Operation of commercial car washes that do not recycle the potable water used as required by the California Water Code Sections 10950-10953.
  • Use of potable water for washing buildings, structures, sidewalks, walkways, driveways, patios, tennis courts, or other hard-surfaced, non-porous areas, except to protect the health and safety of the public.
  • Use of potable water for construction purposes, including washing streets, backfill, and dust control, if other actions to accomplish the same purposes without water are feasible and/or permitted or if recycled water is reasonably available as determined by a government agency.
  • Obligation to Fix Leaks, Breaks, or Malfunctions: Use of water through any broken or defective plumbing fixture, sprinkler, watering or irrigation system on the customer’s premises when the utility has notified the customer in writing to repair the broken or defective plumbing fixture, sprinkler, watering or irrigation system, and the customer has failed to make such repairs within 72 hours after receipt of such notice.
  • The serving of water, other than upon request, in eating and drinking establishments, including but not limited to restaurants, hotels, cafes, bars, or other public places where food or drink are served and/or purchased.
  • Operators of hotels and motels are to provide guests with the option of choosing not to have towels and linens laundered daily and/or to require hotels and motels to prominently display a notice of this option in each guest bathroom using clear and easily understood language.
  • Other restrictions on use of potable water as prescribed by the Commission, SJWC, or another governing body or agency.

SJWC can only enforce the restrictions listed above. Please check with your municipality for any additional restrictions that may apply. 

3. How can SJW help customers?

SJW has actively promoted water conservation since the early 1990s and continues to encourage our customers to conserve and use water wisely at all times.

There are several ways we can help customers with their conservation efforts, including complimentary water efficiency visits, water-wise gardening info and conservation tips. Rebates and other incentives are also available. 

We are also strongly committed to doing everything we can to reduce water loss on our side. Just some of our efforts in this area include:

4. Is conservation required from residential and business customers?

Yes, we are asking all customers to conserve.

5. How are you keeping customers informed?

We have established a one-stop drought information page on our website at sjwater.com/drought. It will be updated as new details come in. We will also push out information through our bills, social media, and other channels to keep customers informed.

6. What will your drought surcharge program look like?  Will it be the same as in 2015?

Our mandatory conservation plan includes allocations and potential drought surcharges for all residential and landscape customers. It is not the same program as was in effect in 2015. 

Our Mandatory Conservation Plan includes all the details. 

Customers who exceed their allocations will incur drought surcharges. Any units of water above the monthly drought allocation will be charged at the Tier 3 rate in effect, currently $7.6515 per CCF of water. This is in addition to charges at regular rates for all units of water consumed.  

7. What is the latest update on Schedule 14.1?

Our updated filing for Schedule 14.1 takes super savers into account. Our proposed plan will be reviewed by the CPUC for approval. Approval of the plan does not mean the plan goes into effect. Before the plan is implemented, a public hearing will be held and the CPUC must approve of the plan.

This plan recognizes the efforts of those customers who have and continue to conserve while encouraging others to do the same. The proposed updates set a minimum consumption number at which drought surcharges would not apply. Residential customers whose consumption falls below this monthly drought allocation will not be subject to drought surcharges.

Our proposed plan also includes allocations that are based on a customer’s personal past usage in 2019. Valley Water determined 2019 for comparison due to the fact that it was the last year with normal rainfall. Unlike our plan from a few years ago, there is no one allocation for all residential customers. Customers using above the minimum drought allocations will have an allocation based on 15% of their 2019 usage.

See table below for minimum drought allocation amount:


8. What is a super saver?

A super saver is defined as someone who already uses less than 5 units of water per month. These people do not need to reduce their water consumption by 15%. We thank them and greatly appreciate their efforts.

San Jose Water’s updated Water Contingency Plan considers “super savers” and has an allocation floor – the minimum amount of water (in CCF) that any customer will receive.

The Goal is to NOT penalize super savers, but to support them. San Jose Water realizes that these customers can’t cut back 15% when they are using for example, only 2 CCF of water per month.