The Guadalupe watershed consists of 170 square miles (400 km2) of land within northern California's Santa Clara County. This watershed is owned and managed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. The surface runoff from this area drains into the various rivers (namely the Guadalupe), streams, reservoirs or other bodies of water which all eventually gets carried into the San Francisco Bay (indicated below, with surrounding counties in red). Essentially, all the water from the creeks and rivers that make up the Guadalupe watershed, including water from storm drains, flows into the Guadalupe River, and then flows downstream into the San Francisco Bay at the Alviso Slough in Alviso. The Guadalupe watershed's main tributaries include Los Gatos Creek, Trout Creek, Hendrys Creek, Ross Creek, Pheasant Creek, Rincon Creek, Herbert Creek, and Golf Creek. Six major reservoirs exist in the watershed: Calero Reservoir on Arroyo Calero, Guadalupe Reservoir on Guadalupe Creek, Almaden Reservoir on Los Alamitos Creek, Vasona Reservoir, Lexington Reservoir, and Lake Elsman on Los Gatos Creek.
The area covered by the Guadalupe River and its tributaries spreads over the neighboring cities of San Jose, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Campbell, and Santa Clara.
The Guadalupe watershed was an area of high activity during the California Gold Rush, and as a result, Mercury toxicity and its effects on surrounding citizens and wildlife is a major concern for the area, and monitored intensively. Because mercury is an effective magnet for gold, miners during the Gold Rush would regularly line their sluices with mercury to amalgamate the gold out. An estimated 6,500 tons of mercury was lost in the system of creeks and rivers along the coast between 1850 and 1920, and is still being detected today in the water, animal life, and riverbeds of these affected tributaries.
The effects of mercury on aquatic environments are very complex and create a number of health and safety risks. The most dangerous effect is its conversion into methylmercury by bacteria in rivers and lakes, which is in fact a more toxic substance than plain mercury. Methylmercury has a capacity to be taken in by insects and other invertebrates which the fish eat, which are in turn consumed by humans. Through this process of biomagnification, the methylmercury concentration increases the further up the food chain it reaches.
Methylmercury is known for impairing neurological development in fetuses, infants, and small children. Exposure in the womb from a mother's consumption of contaminated fish and shellfish can harm a baby's newly developing brain and nervous system. There are notable impacts on cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills in children that have been exposed to methylmercury in the womb. Methylmercury also causes a number of problems in adults, including impairment of the peripheral vision,"pins and needles" feelings, usually in the hands, feet, and around the mouth, lack of coordination of movements, impairment of speech, hearing, walking, and muscle weakness.
Methylmercury that bioaccumulates in fish and the fish and other animals that eat them can reach harmful levels very quickly. Just how high these levels are depends on several factors, such as local non-air releases of mercury, naturally occurring mercury in soils, physical and biological properties of the water-body in question, and the age, size, and types of food the fish eats. Birds and mammals that eat fish are the most affected in the ecosystem because of their placement as predators in the food chain. Effects of methylmercury exposure on wildlife include death, as well as reduced fertility, slower growth and development, and abnormal behaviors that can drastically effect the animals survival.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) is not only the county’s water wholesaler, but is also the steward of all the rivers, streams, and reservoirs for the area. The SCVWD reached an agreement with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board by which a $1 million long-term project was funded in order to reduce the levels of mercury contamination in the Guadalupe watershed, including all areas from the upper Santa Cruz Mountains all the way to the San Francisco Bay. A survey was initiated in September 2003 in order to find adequate methods of disposing of mercury deposits. The disposal of these deposits is being funded by the California State Cleanup and Abatement Account.
There are numerous projects in the Guadalupe watershed that the Santa Clara Valley Water District has been working towards delivering, including:
The Guadalupe River mainstem is an urban, northward flowing 14 miles (23 km) river in California whose much longer headwater creeks originate in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The river mainstem now begins on the Santa Clara Valley floor when Los Alamitos Creek exits Lake Almaden and joins Guadalupe Creek just downstream of Coleman Road in San Jose, California. From here it flows north through San Jose, where it receives Los Gatos Creek, a major tributary. The Guadalupe River serves as the eastern boundary of the City of Santa Clara and the western boundary of Alviso, and after coursing through San José, it empties into south San Francisco Bay at the Alviso Slough.
Almaden Valley, or simply Almaden is a valley and primarily upper middle class residential neighborhood of San Jose, California, in South San Jose.
Coyote Creek is a river that flows through the Santa Clara Valley in California, United States.
Stevens Creek Reservoir is an artificial lake located in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains near Cupertino, California. A 1,063-acre (430 ha) county park surrounds the reservoir and provides limited fishing, picnicking, hiking, and horseback riding activities. Although swimming is not allowed, non-power boating is allowed. No powered boats or jet skis are allowed.
Stevens Creek is a creek in Santa Clara County, California. The creek originates in the Santa Cruz Mountains on the western flank of Black Mountain in the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve near the terminus of Page Mill Road at Skyline Boulevard. It flows southeasterly through the Stevens Creek County Park before turning northeast into Stevens Creek Reservoir. It then continues north for 12.5 miles through Cupertino, Los Altos, Sunnyvale and Mountain View before emptying into the San Francisco Bay at the Whisman Slough, near Google's main campus.
The Los Gatos Creek runs 24 miles (39 km) in California through Santa Clara Valley Water District's Guadalupe Watershed from the Santa Cruz Mountains northward through the Santa Clara Valley until its confluence with the Guadalupe River in downtown San Jose. The Guadalupe River then continues onward into San Francisco Bay.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District provides stream stewardship, wholesale water supply and flood protection for Santa Clara County, California, in the southern San Francisco Bay Area. The district encompasses all of the county's 1,300 square miles (3,400 km2) and serves the area's 15 cities, 2 million residents and more than 200,000 commuters. The district's three water treatment plants can produce as much as 210,000,000 US gallons (800,000 m3) of drinking water a day. Another part of the district's mission is to manage flood and storm waters along the county's hundreds of miles of creeks and rivers in an environmentally sensitive manner.
Coyote Lake is an artificial lake in Santa Clara County, California, between Morgan Hill and Gilroy.
Uvas Reservoir is an artificial lake located west of San Martin, California in the United States. The reservoir is surrounded by a 626-acre (253 ha) park managed by the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department. The park provides limited fishing ("catch-and-release"), picnicking, and hiking activities. Boating is not permitted in the reservoir.
Anderson Lake, also known as Anderson Reservoir, is an artificial lake in Santa Clara County, California, United States, near Morgan Hill. The reservoir is formed by the damming of Coyote Creek just below its confluence with San Felipe Creek. A 4,275-acre (1,730 ha) county park surrounds the reservoir and provides limited fishing, picnicking, and hiking activities. Although swimming is prohibited, boating, water-skiing and jet-skiing are permitted in the reservoir.
Permanente Creek is a 13.3-mile-long (21.4 km) stream originating on Black Mountain in Santa Clara County, California, United States. It is the namesake for the Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization. Named by early Spanish explorers as Arroyo Permanente or Rio Permanente because of its perennial flow, the creek descends the east flank of Black Mountain then courses north through Los Altos and Mountain View culminating in southwest San Francisco Bay historically at the Mountain View Slough but now partly diverted via the Permanente Creek Diversion Channel to Stevens Creek and the Whisman Slough in San Francisco Bay.
Saratoga Creek is a north-northeast flowing creek in Santa Clara County, California.
Almaden Reservoir is an artificial lake in the hills south of San Jose, California in the United States. It borders on the 4,163-acre (1,685 ha) Almaden Quicksilver County Park, which provides limited fishing ("catch-and-release"), picnicking, hiking, and horseback riding activities. Swimming and boating are not permitted in the reservoir.
Calero Reservoir is an artificial lake in the Santa Teresa Hills south of San Jose, California, United States. A 4,471-acre (1,809 ha) county park surrounds the reservoir and provides limited fishing ("catch-and-release"), picnicking, hiking, and horseback riding activities. Although swimming is prohibited, boating, water-skiing and jet-skiing are permitted in the reservoir.
Calabazas Creek is a 13.3-mile-long (21.4 km) northeast by northward-flowing stream originating on Table Mountain in Saratoga, California in Santa Clara County, California, United States. It courses through the cities of Saratoga, San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, culminating in the Guadalupe Slough in south San Francisco Bay.
San Tomas Aquinas Creek, known locally as San Tomas Aquino Creek, is a 16.5-mile-long (26.6 km) stream that heads on El Sereno mountain in El Sereno Open Space Preserve in Saratoga, California in Santa Clara County, California, United States. It flows north through the cities of Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Los Gatos, Campbell, Santa Clara and San Jose before its confluence with the Guadalupe Slough in south San Francisco Bay.
Guadalupe Creek is a 10.5 miles (16.9 km) northward-flowing stream originating just east of the peak of Mount Umunhum in Santa Clara County, California, United States. It courses along the northwestern border of Almaden Quicksilver County Park in the Cañada de los Capitancillos before joining Los Alamitos Creek after the latter exits Lake Almaden. This confluence forms the Guadalupe River mainstem, which in turn flows through San Jose and empties into south San Francisco Bay at Alviso Slough.
Alamitos Creek or Los Alamitos Creek is a 7.7-mile-long (12.4 km) creek in San Jose, California, which becomes the Guadalupe River when it exits Lake Almaden and joins Guadalupe Creek. Los Alamitos Creek is located in Almaden Valley and originates from the Los Capitancillos Ridge and the Santa Cruz Mountains. This creek flows through the Valley's Guadalupe Watershed, which is owned by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. The creek flows in a generally northwesterly direction after rounding the Los Capitancillos Ridge and the town of New Almaden, in the southwest corner, before ambling along the Santa Teresa Hills on northeast side of the Almaden Valley. Its environment has some relatively undisturbed areas and considerable lengths of suburban residential character. Originally called Arroyo de los Alamitos, the creek's name is derived from "little poplar", "alamo" being the Spanish word for "poplar" or "cottonwood".
Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department, sometimes referred to as Santa Clara County Parks Department or Santa Clara County Parks, is a government department in Santa Clara County, California. The department manages 29 parks with a total area over 52,000 acres (21,000 ha).
Vasona Reservoir is an artificial lake located in Los Gatos, California, United States. A 152-acre (62 ha) county park surrounds the reservoir and provides limited fishing, picnicking, and informal play activities. Although swimming is not allowed, human-powered boating is permitted in the reservoir.