Getting water is not easy for local residence near the Chesbro and Uvas Dam. One resident Roxy Brocco said, “My grandfather use to live here, and I’ve lived here for more than forty years.” Despite local access to creeks and stream runoff during the winter months Brocco said, “We don’t get our water from Santa Clara County. We get ours from a well”. Brocco said, "At the time they dug our well, it was only drilled down thirty feet.”
“Right now we only pump water in when we need it,” Brocco said. Despite access to new technologies to dig a deeper well, Surveyors have said there is no water. “In the summer when there is no more water, and when my animals start drinking more it will hurt,” Brocco said.
California's current water shortage is adding and increased stress on local water users who rely heavily on local water supplies for their livestock.
With 50% of the water used from the Chesbro and Uvas Reservoirs directly sent to irrigate crops and farmland throughout the Gilroy area, the call for conservation by Gov. Brown has little effect.
“When our well is empty we have to haul water in when we run out,” Brocco said. “We ran out the last two, or three months now,” Brocco said.
The current storms did not have a measurable impact on Chesbro Reservoir. Before the first storm of the year hit, the Chesbro only held 902 acre-feet. After a major rain storm, the reservoir held 919 acre-feet. With added gains from 170 to 250 acre-feet drought conditions are far from over.
The state is projecting an allocation of zero water for 2014. The State Water Project’s principal reservoir is Lake Oroville, but there are other lakes and reservoirs that are part of the state water system. These systems have been hugely affected by the drought, drying up precipitation that is collected for later access in the year.
The last few years, Brocco recalls has been when she has had to call in water trucks to fill a large water tank stored on her property in order to have water for her live stock.
The truck connects to a pipe and then pushes the water into the storage tank. “We use out of that,” she said. “I have two champion sheep that I show”. Not fully feeling the full effects of the summer drought she explained, “If worse comes to worse, I will have to take them to the auction. I just hope I don’t have to go there, but I mean if we have no water,” Brocco said.
The impact of the State Water Project allocation is not felt immediately. In fact, it’s not the final allocation. It could change based on what happens the rest of the winter. The state set its projected allocation at 0 percent of what water agencies requested. That was down from an initial allocation forecast of 5 percent. This is for water deliveries in 2014.
There is still some water being delivered because many water agencies have carryover water from last year that has not yet been delivered. The drought is so dire that the Santa Clara Water District is using three waste water treatment plants to help deliver water to its customers.
Water is pumped in near Bailey Ave from the Central Valley water project. The water is also pumped in from one end by Bailey Ave and then is released going towards Almaden.
The Chesbro Reservoir is now low enough to show an old cement bridge that use to lead to Willow Springs Road once used as a main leading to San Jose, Calif. “You go about half-way through the damn where Willow spring road goes to the right. You look down to your left and you will see a cement bridge down in the water,” Brocco said.
Victor Liberatore who has lived in the area for more than 42 years said, “I have seen it worse than this back in 1975 – 1976. The record for the Chesbro dam water levels fell from 1244.25 acre feet of storage to just 559.79 acre feet of storage, a loss of half its capacity. Despite these levels, records revealed that the Chesbro dam only held 103.64 acre feet of storage on March 3, 1977.
Records show a downward trend starting from 1977, with levels reaching an all time low on Oct 24, 1984 with a startling record of 107.88 acre feet of storage down from 6411.04 on Nov 9, 1983. Then from Nov of 1988 – to Jan of 1991 the Chesbro Dam reached an all time low of 92.6 acre feet of storage. Records show levels rebounding and then lowering but never fully recovering more than 4000 acre feet of storage capacity. As of Jan 6, 2014 levels were recorded at 470.61 acre feet.
Torino Gonzales said, “Older more traditional storage tanks were being used to hold water, but now residence here are choosing to install wider and shallower tanks”. Gonzales said. Carlos and Torino have been working for several months installing a well water pumping system that will be used to water drought tolerant plants used around the home.
"Water is provided by the city to home owners", Gonzales said. However, with such a high cost from 600-800 dollars a month for water and utilities, the cost reaches beyond what users have expected to pay in the past.
“The cost of water is extremely expensive, that is why the home owner wants to put in these two storage tanks to help reduce the water costs,” Gonzales said. The line connects to a well and then automatically pumps in the water. The storage tanks hold 5000 gallons each for a total of 10,000 gallons to be used for landscaping needs throughout the summer months.