Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 30th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

For a Sustainable Water Future

waterfallsPfeiffer-Big-SurExperience from other places should give us pause as we consider building a desalination plant. On Jan. 23, 2010, The Australian reported, “Rusting in sea water, the $1.2 billion Gold Coast desalination plant required repairs soon after it opened. The showpiece of a Queensland government strategy to drought-proof the state’s booming southeast, the project has been plagued by so many construction flaws and unscheduled shut-downs that the government is still refusing to take possession from the contractors who built it.”

The St. Petersburg Times reports on the only large-scale desalination plant operating in the United States, “Tampa Bay Water’s long-troubled desalination plant is having more problems. The $158 million plant, which opened five years late and cost $40 million more than expected, remains unable to supply the full 25 million gallons a day that was originally promised.” Closer to home, a Santa Barbara desalination plant sits idle, never used since its completion in 1992. Meanwhile Santa Barbara residents are still paying off the bonds for the plant.

Santa Cruz doesn’t have to repeat Santa Barbara’s mistake. Conservation has greatly alleviated our drought risk by reducing our water demand. According to the City’s 2003 Integrated Water Plan (IWP), desalination was intended to alleviate a portion of our water supply shortfall during a worst-case drought. The shortfall is the difference between water demand, which the IWP projected to be 4.8 billion gallons in 2010, and the amount of water available during a drought, 3.3 billion gallons. That shortfall has nearly disappeared, as actual demand in 2008 was 3.6 billion gallons, dropping to 3.1 billion in 2010. Thus, recent Water Department statements that a worst-case drought would require “45% peak-season curtailment” are inaccurate. When we challenged the inaccuracy, City of Santa Cruz Water Department official, Toby Goddard, acknowledged, “We are both in agreement that water demand presently is a good bit lower today than what was assumed to be the case in developing the City’s IWP … Furthermore, we agree that there is a need periodically to update how all these changes affect the City’s drought risk.”

The disappearance of the shortfall has achieved the original goal of the desal plant.  Yet the City Council continues to approve funds for desal studies and design, currently running $17.5 million through 2012.

A new rationale for desalination has emerged. The City’s water supply will diminish once the National Marine Fisheries Service requires the City to reduce its diversion of water from the San Lorenzo River and North Coast streams in order to restore populations of native fish. But turning to the energy-intensive solution of desalination will only worsen CO2 emissions that are making ocean waters more acidic, affecting all marine life. A better solution is improved conservation. What if the City instituted a free toilet installation program such as exists in Soquel Creek Water District, with the goal that 90 percent of buildings get the latest .8 gallons/flush toilets? What if we launched a campaign to replace water-hungry lawns with drought-tolerant plants, supported by rebates such as Long Beach’s $2.50/sq ft? What if the City invested in rainwater catchment for landscape

and toilet use? These measures would not only cost less than desalination, they would provide local jobs. Moreover, they would reduce our carbon footprint rather than increase it. Desalination requires seven to 10 times the energy of pumping water out of the ground.

Secondly, we should enact  a water-neutral development policy, similar to Soquel Creek Water District’s policy of offsetting new demand with retrofits in existing buildings.

Another solution is collaboration between water districts. The County is conducting a study of regional water exchanges that could provide rainy season aquifer relief for Soquel Creek Water District in amounts comparable to a desalination plant. Soquel Creek Water District could supply well water to Santa Cruz in drought years. Our water agencies would have the funds to implement this alternative if they weren’t shelling out for desal pre-construction costs.

We can choose between increasing our fossil- fuel dependency or creating a sustainable water future. Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives is considering a ballot measure that would require voter approval before a plant could be built. You can learn more by visiting the  website,

Comment on this article below or send to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location