San Jose Water customers could soon see drought surcharge

San Jose Water customers could soon see a drought surcharge added to their water bills if they go over their allotted water amount.

San Jose Water services water to residents here in Campbell and several South Bay cities. The goal for Santa Clara County is to cut water use by 15%. Conservation so far is in the single digits.

Customers who get water from this company may soon have to pay up if they use too much water.

"The idea is that we are kind of trying to force people to conserve," said Liann Walborsky of San Jose Water Company. "It has to happen. We are just in a terrible drought."

On Wednesday, the California Public Utilities Commission approved San Jose Water Company’s request to tack on a drought surcharge for those who fail to conserve.

Back in June, wholesaler Valley Water, the district serving Santa Clara, told everyone to cut water use by 15%.

"We saw a 7% reduction in water use compared to 2019, now that’s good but we are not there yet," said Matt Keller from Valley Water.

San Jose Water customers must cut their water by 15% from 2019 levels. It’ll be noted on your bill.

Why 2019? That is the most recent year California wasn’t in a drought.

"If you don’t cut by the 15% and you are over your allocation," said Walborsky. "You will be charged $7.13 for every unit over your allocation."

Customers weren’t thrilled about the idea. The company provides water to one million people in San Jose, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga and Monte Sereno.

"More people are at home because of COVID," said Jennifer Rasul of Campbell. "It seems like we can’t be comparing a time when we were out of the house versus now we are in the house way more."

Water officials said the easiest way to cut back is with outdoor irrigation.

Water inventory remains low. Recent rain has helped but isn’t nearly enough after two very dry years. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, much of California remains in extreme drought.

"Our reservoirs are still only about 11% of total capacity so we have a long way to go to fill up those reservoirs," said Keller.

Rasul doesn’t like the surcharge but plans to conserve even more

"Now that I know money is attached, I will be way more thoughtful and aware of what we are doing," said Rasul.

Customers have been charged before for using too much water during the state’s last major drought in 2016. San Jose Water said customers could see the drought surcharge on their bills early next year.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or