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Natural Resources and the

Maintain a healthy environment for all residents and living creatures.​

Goal #3. Air and Water Resources

Clean air and water are central to a healthy and thriving community and environment. Historically marginalized communities and residents of predominantly low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately burdened by pollution exposure. Ensuring we protect our air and water resources is all the more important because providing outdoor access and recreational opportunities can enhance residents’ quality of life. The County is committed to addressing these inequities by ensuring access to clean air and water resources, encouraging conservation where possible, and reducing the use of hazardous materials and pesticides. The County is also committed to transitioning to using more landscape-based approaches to managing stormwater, which provide multiple benefits to the community, including improved water and air quality, increased water supply, and improved wildlife habitat.

Associated Policies and Plans

How will we get there?

Air quality serves as an indicator of environmental and public health. As a regional issue, the County is situated to encourage collaboration across jurisdictions to address sources of air pollution from transportation, industry, and development. The County of Santa Clara has been addressing the issue of air pollution by requiring new development meet the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s (BAAQMD) significance thresholds for pollutants, encouraging the use of sustainable materials in buildings, and requiring development projects to account for transportation-related pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with a project.

The County will work to improve air quality—especially in neighborhoods and communities disproportionately burdened by air pollution—through enhanced coordination with BAAQMD to monitor geographic areas with persistently worse air quality and incentivize programs to reduce pollution from mobile sources, such as the Vehicle Buy Back Program and electrification of vehicles.

Strategy 3.1 Targets and Key Performance Indicator

Unincorporated County Target:

  • Adopt measures to protect sensitive receptor uses by locating uses 500 feet away from state highways, interstates, and stationary area sources of pollution or incorporating measures to minimize exposure to pollutants if uses cannot be located more than 500 feet away

Existing Programs, Policies, and Activities:

  • Continue to utilize and comply with the BAAQMD thresholds of significance for new projects

  • Continue coordination with BAAQMD to promote and implement stationery and area source emission measures

  • BAAQMD Community Health Protection Program

  • CEQA assessment that includes vehicle miles traveled (VMTs) associated with proposed development projects

Maintaining the health of the County’s watersheds is critical to ensuring an adequate supply of safe drinking water and to preserving the ecosystem services provided by our natural resources. Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect benefits provided by the natural environment to human well-being. Healthy watersheds help to moderate floods, regulate air and water temperatures, filter stormwater runoff and provide habitat for diverse species. The County of Santa Clara has many existing policies and partnerships to manage stormwater and reduce human impact on watershed health, including the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Plan. The water agencies that serve Santa Clara County residents also address stormwater management through their urban watershed management plans and educational programs.

As such, the County is building upon its policy and program foundation to educate homeowners, the agricultural community, and developers about ways they can prevent pollution, such as by reducing the use of pesticides.

Strategy 3.3 Targets and Key Performance Indicators

Existing Programs, Policies, and Activities:

  • Green Stormwater Infrastructure Plan (including integration of green stormwater infrastructure into County’s capital projects)

  • North and South County Regional Stormwater Resource Plans

  • Santa Clara County's Clean Water Program

  • Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program

  • Santa Clara Basin Watershed Management Initiative

  • Outreach and education to the public, local schools and businesses, and County departments, including River Clean-Up Days

Strategy 3.3 - Water Quality and Stormwater Management

Protect the creeks and rivers of the Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay watersheds from stormwater pollution.

Water is one of California’s most precious resources due to variability in the water supply from year to year. Climate change will make both flooding and drought conditions more frequent and more severe. Water conservation is one of the best ways to improve the reliability of the County’s drinking water. Reducing water use also saves energy, further reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.

The County has many policies and programs in place to encourage the community to use water wisely, including requirements to install water-efficient fixtures, appliances, and landscaping in new construction and development. Within County-owned facilities, it will continue retrofitting wasteful fixtures, appliances, irrigation systems and converting to native landscaping—one of the most effective ways to reduce water use. It also encourages the recycling of wastewater (e.g., using greywater for landscaping, utilizing on-site water treatment systems), further reducing the total quantity of water used and in turn supporting a reliable water supply.

Strategy 3.2 Targets and Key Performance Indicators

Existing Programs, Policies, and Activities:

  • Department of Environmental Health Drinking Water Program

  • Sustainable Landscaping Policy

  • Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance

  • Residential Water Conservation Ordinance

  • County facility water use monitoring and toilets and sinks retrofits/sensors

  • Save Our Water Santa Clara County and other education & outreach efforts

  • Water Bottle Refilling Stations (“Hydration stations”) and Bottle Exchange Program

  • Facilities and Fleet infrastructure for reuse of wastewater (purple pipe) for landscaping, A/C, etc.

County Operations and Facilities Target:

  • Beneficially reuse 100% of wastewater by 2050.

Unincorporated County Target:

  • Reduce water use by at least 20% relative to a 2013 baseline by 2025.

Strategy 3.2 - Water Use and Conservation

Streams and riparian corridors provide several benefits. Riparian areas help to clean stormwater runoff before it enters the groundwater and travels throughout the watershed, which protects water quality and wildlife. They provide wildlife habitat and remove atmospheric carbon by storing it in vegetation and wetlands (see Strategy 1.6, Carbon Sequestration). Riparian areas also provide a buffer from storm surges and flooding by slowly releasing moisture into streams and creeks, which reduces the risk of flooding and erosion. Furthermore, recreational opportunities on the County’s streams and riparian corridors provide another way for the community to access nature and enhance quality of life.

The County will continue to foster collaboration between agencies and cities to implement policies that protect these ecosystems and provide appropriate levels of public access for recreation. The County is also prioritizing public awareness about the benefits that streams and riparian corridors provide by organizing clean-up days and encouraging restoration projects.

Strategy 3.4 Targets and Key Performance Indicators

Existing Programs, Policies, and Activities:

  • Natural Resource Program, Interpretation and Outdoor Recreation Program, Visitor and Facility Services, Partnership Program

  • Watershed Watch Campaign

  • CEPA programming on watershed education and creek cleanups

  • Develop the Canoas Creek Trail from VTA’s Blossom Hill Transient Oriented Development to Martial Cottle Park along Valley Water’s Canoas Creek easement

Strategy 3.4 - Streams and Riparian Corridors

Develop educational programs and volunteer service opportunities that promote the

local stewardship of streams and riparian corridors and develop programs for

ecologically compatible recreational use of streams and riparian corridors.

The improper disposal of hazardous materials (including chemicals, pesticides, batteries, prescription medicine, and medical waste) poses significant threats to wildlife, public health, and entire ecosystems. One way to prevent improper disposal of hazardous waste is to reduce the use of hazardous materials in buildings, in agricultural processes, and at home. Safer alternatives exist for many uses, including non-toxic cleaning products, integrated pest management methods, and sustainable building materials. By promoting the use of such alternatives, the County of Santa Clara can reduce the amount of hazardous waste used.

The County will also continue to provide guidelines and opportunities for the safe disposal of hazardous materials and household hazardous waste. The County already hosts waste drop-off events across the region and discourages illegal dumping. The County will also pursue partnerships with waste haulers and other agencies to educate the public about alternative materials and proper disposal methods.

Existing Programs, Policies, and Activities:

  • County Pesticide Regulation

  • County’s Integrated Pest Management program and Integrated Pest Management Ordinance

  • Take-It-Back (TIB) Partnership

  • Hazardous Materials Program, CEPA

  • Site Mitigation Program, CEPA

  • Recycling and Waste Reduction Division, CEPA

  • County Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) and Small Quantity business disposal programs

Countywide Target

  • Reduce return to compliance (RTC) time frames for major hazardous materials violations by 5% each year through 2025.

Strategy 3.5 Targets and Key Performance Indicators

Strategy 3.5 - Hazardous Materials Management

Reduce the use of hazardous materials and ensure that those

used are properly managed and disposed of to minimize harm

Strategy 3.1
Strategy 3.2
Strategy 3.3
Strategy 3.4
Strategy 3.5
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