Santa Clara



With over 102,104 residents, Santa Clara is the third largest city in Santa Clara County. Census Bureau data also reveals that Santa Clara has the highest number of establishments in manufacturing per 1,000 population of any city in California. Given its population density, and that of neighboring municipalities, this city has very few remaining natural areas or stream channels. Its watershed management is directed at policies and procedures appropriate to built-out urban areas.


Shared Responsibilities

Water resources and watershed protection policy are guided by elements found within the General Plan while ordinances in the City Code provide a regulatory framework. The General Plan Update is currently underway. Floodplain management regulations are outlined in the Floodplain Management Ordinance.

The City also works with the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association (BASMAA) and develops area-specific guidance to mitigate targeted development-related impacts.

The following resources are also employed to promote responsible stewardship:

  • Start at the Source, a document published by the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association (BASMAA)
  • Santa Clara Valley Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Plan
  • Design Guidelines for the El Camino Gateway District, information developed specifically for this area
  • Community Design Guidelines
  • Guidelines and Standards for Land Use Near Streams, a manual published by the Santa Clara Valley Water Resources Protection Collaborative
  • Historic district guideline

Looking forward, further collaboration or partnership will facilitate sustainable development in the region, particularly in the following areas:

When evaluating land use decisions:

  • Assess and plan for changes in water demand and storm water management, especially taking into account how urbanization affects the water cycle.
  • Decrease the demand for water.
  • Expand water use efficiency in existing and new development.
  • Actively pursue and facilitate the use of recycled water.
  • Protect and expand local water supplies.
  • Protect groundwater basins and source water protection zones.
  • Reduce flood risk.
    • Site new construction to assure stable stream channels and minimize flood risk.
    • Require that new construction in flood prone areas be built to flood safe standards.
  • Protect natural stream functions.
    • Restore fisheries, riparian habitat, and wetland areas.
    • Explore opportunities for increased creek-side trails and open space.

During operations of existing facilities or services:

  • Manage local storm drainage systems with stream capacity to contain floodwaters.
  • Support measures to reduce the exposure to flood risk.
  • Support measures to enhance flood preparedness and knowledge of risk exposure.
  • Prepare critical facilities for operations during flood events or prolonged draught.
  • Reduce pollutants entering streams.


The interactive map below shows the location of Santa Clara and illustrates some of the city's key features, such as major creeks, flood zones and groundwater subbasins.

To view key features, choose a layer from the "Select a layer to display" menu on the map below. You can select multiple layers to view at one time; if you wish to turn off a layer, select it again from the menu. Individual layers contain specific data that you can access by clicking on the layer itself.



Key Water Resources Features

The City of Santa Clara falls within the Calabazas, Guadalupe, San Tomas Aquino, Saratoga and Stevens Creek watersheds. Three major creeks transect the city’s boundaries: Calabazas, San Tomas Aquino, and Saratoga. In cooperation with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the City of Santa Clara Water Department relies on supplies from the Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), supplemented by well water. The BAWSCA is a membership organization comprised of 25 cities and water districts, and two private utilities that purchase water wholesale.

Water Supply

The City of Santa Clara Water Department is the sole provider of water within the city limits. It draws the preponderance of its water from the Hetch Hetchy. The Rinconada Water Treatment Plant also supplies water from the South Bay Aqueduct (SBA) and from the San Luis Reservoir. The San Luis Reservoir is a key component of the federal Central Valley Project while the SBA is a key component of the State Water Project system.

Citywide Programs and Projects

The City of Santa Clara provides its residents with dependable, potable water and environmentally sound, wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal. To these services, both solar water heating systems for domestic use and swimming pools, as well as recycled water for irrigation and industrial processes are also offered. To fully utilize recycled water, the City jointly owns and operates the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant and the South Bay Water Recycling Program. The City also provides specific information to residents about proper use and disposal of pesticides, herbicides, and mercury-containing products.

Water Conservation and Quality

The City of Santa Clara strongly supports water conservation. Policies are promulgated through the General Plan, City code, Rules & Regulations for Water Service and Use, and Community Design Guidelines. The city’s website also embraces conservation and is a ready resource for information for homeowners and businesses about water conservation programs, including:

  • Water-Wise surveys
  • Irrigation Technical Assistance Program (ITAP)
  • Financial Incentives Program (FIP) For Wastewater Reduction   

Controlling polluted runoff is guided by best management practices found in BASMAA’s Start at the Source. The City code also prohibits the discharge of wastewater into storm drains, storm sewers, and watercourses or channels. Further emphasis is added by the General Plan in its reference to the Santa Clara Valley Nonpoint Source Pollutions Control Plan. Policies about Integrated Pest Management (IPM) are absent.

Water Recycling

The City also seeks to maximize the use of reclaimed water by participating in the South Bay Water Recycling Program.

In 1989, the City of Santa Clara completed the first significant recycled water transmission and delivery system in the South Bay. Later this year this project was awarded the American City & County Award of Merit in the water supply category. Municipal use of treated water grew regionally in the 1990s. Diverting this water to various uses keeps discharges into the San Francisco Bay from exceeding safe limits. Currently, more than 100 miles of recycled water pipelines deliver non-potable water for landscaping, playing fields, golf course, cemeteries, industrial processing, agriculture and other non-drinking water purposes.


Flood Protection and Stewardship

Land use within 100-year floodplain areas of Santa Clara must include mitigation measures to protect subdivisions from flooding. To help reduce the incidence of flooding, Community Design Guidelines discourage excessive paving and hardscape areas while encouraging landscaping of parking lots. Discouraging impervious surfaces would improve the effectiveness of these guidelines. Similarly, establishing stream setbacks would accrue benefits.

Santa Clara has 19.3 square miles of tree-lined neighborhoods and thriving commercial/ industrial centers. Since virtually all land along riparian corridors is built out, stream protection is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. And although little remaining natural vegetation exists, the use of native landscaping is encouraged, as is continuation of the City’s street tree program. Removal of mature trees is discouraged.


Trails, Parks and Open Space

There is limited open space remaining in the City of Santa Clara to preserve. Policies focus on maintaining existing and encouraging new open space. The City does permit open space and cluster developments, allowing for “imaginative planning and design concepts.” Increasing emphasis on Transportation Demand Management (TDM) would help limit infrastructure demands. Dozens of parks, playgrounds, special use facilities (like a Skate Park and a Youth Soccer Park), championship Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club, a 40-acre open space preserve, and two public cemeteries (one active and one historical), provide approximately 450 acres of open space.


Related Plan Elements

The Related Plan Elements listed below identify some of the District strategies  applicable to the city. They provide the basis for cities to provide better management of key water resources features within their jurisdictions and to work more effectively with the District to address water resources managemenet issues.

Related Plan Elements

District Has Primary Jurisdiction
E- Maintain the design floodwater conveyance capacities within District-owned channels. (P)
District Collaborates
E- Prepare for effective response to storm-related emergencies. (C)
District Collaborates
E- Ensure floodplain maps (alluvial and tidal) are based on best available data. (C)
District Advocates
E- Assist in the incorporation of flood-wise design features (e.g., minimize imperviousness, preserve natural drainage, rain harvesting and provide flood water detention) within the watershed. (T)
District Advocates
E- Provide information on stormwater management and design of floodplains and channels. (T)
District Collaborates
E- Implement stream stewardship opportunities in capital and maintenance activities, including stream rehabilitation and environmental enhancements and seek to achieve the physical stability and ecological health of streams. (P and C)
District Collaborates
E- Promote the protection and preservation of water quality and providing stream stewardship. (C)
District Collaborates
E- Reduce pollutants in streams from urban runoff and minimize the effects on surface and ground water.
District Collaborates
E- Increase public access to District lands as appropriate; extend trails network.
District Has Primary Jurisdiction
E- Support creek-side or water related recreation, as appropriate.