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Silicon Valley County Mandates 20 Percent Cut in Water Use

<p>Google, Apple and almost 1.8 million residents may have to cut their water consumption drastically under mandatory drought restrictions.</p>

Almost 1.8 million Silicon Valley residents and some of the world's biggest tech companies may have to cut their water consumption drastically after Santa Clara County, Calif., water commissioners approved mandatory drought restrictions Tuesday night.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District board voted unanimously to require reductions in water use by 20 percent below what they used in 2013.

The reductions — double the preliminary target the board set just four weeks ago — apply to retail water agencies, the county and its municipalities, not to customers themselves. But inevitably the measures will have a heavy impact on residents and tech giants in the county, which include Apple Inc. of Cupertino, Google Inc. of Mountain View and Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, among many others.

Still unclear is what steps the Water District board wants the county and its cities to take — the resolution passed Tuesday night simply orders them to " implement mandatory measures as needed to achieve the 20 percent water use reduction target."

California's continued drought has dropped the Santa Clara Valley's reservoir levels to only 33 percent capacity — less than half their 20-year average — while the state Department of Water Resources last month eliminated the district's water allocation, making it harder for the county to get access to water stored in reserves.

Many California agencies have recommended water restrictions, but the Santa Clara Valley Water District is one of the first to make them mandatory, joining officials in Sacramento and Folsom, both of which also made 20 percent reductions mandatory recently.

— M. Alex Johnson