This month, the County of Santa Clara was recognized by the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards Coalition for its efforts and leadership in water conservation.

“Santa Clara County strives to be a leader on environmental issues.  We are doing all we can to combat climate change and preserve our resources,” said President Ken Yeager, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors.  “It is nice to be honored not only for our efforts to conserve water at our own facilities, but our work encouraging local businesses to act in an environmentally responsible way.”

Through water efficient technology and landscaping, as well as education of building occupants and staff, the County of Santa Clara is saving over 50 million gallons of water and using nearly 10 million gallons of recycled water per year.

“We were impressed by the County of Santa Clara’s strong commitment to water conservation and recycling measures at its own facilities,” said Peter Drekmeier, Bay Area Program Director of Tuolumne River Trust, a member of the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards Coalition. “The County’s dynamic Green Business Program encourages and assists others in conserving water and truly serves as a model for the region.”

The County encourages the community to strive for water use efficiency through programs such as Green Business Program. Since 2005, the Green Business Program has certified over 550 businesses and public agencies that have incorporated practices to encourage conserving resources, preventing pollution and minimizing waste, including water conservation. In 2012, certified Green Businesses saved over 11 million gallons of water in total.

In 2009, the County adopted a Green Building Policy for County Government Buildings. The Policy encourages retrofits, remodels, renovations, and new buildings to incorporate water efficiency and utilization of recycled water.

“We are proud of the work of the Green Business Program,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith.  “We also are proud of the efforts of the Integrated Pest Management Program to bring in drought tolerant plants and the Facilities and Fleets Department’s work retrofitting county facilities.”

Several water conservation programs have been implemented to reduce consumption in County facilities. As one of the top consumers of energy and water in County facilities, the County Jails went through a water-conservation project which included the installation of low-flow fixtures, which helps to save over 30 million gallons of potable water annually.

Also in 2009, the County adopted Bay Friendly landscaping and gardening principles. Since then, over nine acres of urban landscape around County facilities and parks have been converted from lawn to landscape that featured drought tolerant native and local plants. Drip irrigation systems have been used to replace sprinklers. As a result, approximately 20 million gallons of irrigation water is saved annually.

As required in the Green Building Policy, the County has been seeking opportunities to increase the use of recycled water to reduce the use of potable water. Currently, recycled water is used at one cooling tower for cooling and four County sites for landscape irrigation. Approximately 10 million gallons of recycled water was used in 2012.

“This has truly been a team effort,” said Facilities and Fleet Director Jeff Draper.  “It is very gratifying to see the magnitude of savings generated by the efforts of staff from various departments in the County of Santa Clara government.”