Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Apr 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Desal Deliberations

desalinationWith desalination on the horizon, the debate deepens
When it comes to the debate over desalination, there isn’t much of a middle ground.


While opponents to the plan for a 2.5 million gallon per day desalination plant stand by the idea of increasing conservation and cutbacks and exploring other alternatives (like maximizing use of existing water sources), city and water department officials unfailingly revert back to their matter-of-fact claim that “conservation and curtailment simply isn’t enough,” and that desalination has proven to be the only feasible route to augment the water supply. Representatives from scwd2, the joint agency formed by the Santa Cruz Water Department and the Soquel Creek Water District to pursue the project, claim there are no significant marine impacts. Opponents say there are. Scwd2 says the resulting water won’t be any different than normal drinking water; critics agreee it will be safe, but point out inherent differences.

 

This fixed polarity was the general theme of the first ever “Desal Debate,” hosted by the Santa Cruz League of Women Voters at First Congregational Church on Thursday, April 14.

The opposition team, consisting of Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives founder Rick Longinotti and former Santa Cruz Water Production Manager Jan Bentley, argued against the plant’s necessity, pointing to a 35 percent drop in water demand over the past decade. Instead, they propose increased conservation to raise reservoir levels (they suggest raising the minimum end-of-summer Loch Lomond level from 64 percent full to 84 percent full—raising it by 560 million gallons, or more than the desal output would be), water neutral development (they’d especially like to see this at UC Santa Cruz as it grows) and regional collaboration in form of water transfers.

As expected, none of this sat well with the opposing team, made up of former city councilmember Mike Rotkin and Water Conservation Manager Toby Goddard. They shot back with the fact that Santa Cruzans already have half the state average for per capita water use, and local conservation is exemplary, and added that, contrary to opposition claims, UCSC growth and city development are not factors in the need for desal. “Growth and water use simply isn’t a problem we have,” said Goddard. “Our problem is lack of adequate supply in drought years.” They continued on to refute the idea of a regional water swap between Soquel Creek and Santa Cruz, with Rotkin saying, “It’s an interesting idea, but we don’t want to rely on something that might work or might not work.”

And so went the back-and-forth. All of the issues we’re use to hearing about in the desal discussion were thrown to and fro, with the expected answers at the ready. The only gray areas were the energy efficiency (or lack thereof) of a plant, whether or not it could end up on a ballot for voters to decide, and the plan’s fiscal outcome.

“There is no argument that conservation is cheaper, per unit, than developing a new water source,” said Goddard, adding, once again, that conservation will not be enough to solve the shortage. “Desal opponents would have you believe that with composting toilets and rain barrels we could save our way out of this problem—and that’s simply not true.”  He posed that even if the city used the money to instead offer every resident in the jurisdiction a composting toilet, “not one of them would take it—well, maybe one.” At this, there was immediate objection from the crowd—hands shot up with cries of “I’ll take one!” and “Me too!”

One of the evening’s more interesting developments, aside from the toilet uproar, unraveled as both sides’ charged that the other was employing fear tactics to sway the public. Rotkin called the SCDA’s concerns about UCSC growth and city development “fear tactics,” while the SCDA team gave the same label to Rotkin’s descriptions of a future without desalination that would find residents “unable to flush their toilets.” Rotkin repeatedly pointed to city studies that show that doing more than 15 percent curtailment would result in “business failures and health and sanitation problems in individual homes.”

SCDA also suggested that the city’s drought projections—the reason for needing a desalination plant, by their own account—are grossly exaggerated. While the city centers their water planning around worst case drought scenarios and expectations for a drought once every six years, Longinotti said a worst-case drought (one requiring 25 percent curtailment) actually occurs once in 90 years.

In response to SCDA’s proposal to implement landscape irrigation restrictions similar to those executed successfully in 2009, Goddard retorted that a shortage must be in place to implement those types of restrictions, quipping, “Do we really want to live in a community where we’re surrounded by water police?”

Rotkin added some color to the “there’s no other option than desal” claim with a peek into his own personal journey from desal adversary to desal advocate. “I started out as an opponent to desalination,” he said. “I worked really hard over the last 30 years for an alternative, but we really haven’t found one.”

Ultimately, both sides of the issue are thinking long term—the problem is that the two long-term visions are instrinsicly different. While the city tries to do what they believe is responsible planning (“We have to think long term,” Goddard said. “We have a legal responsibility to prepare for disaster situations and protect the community.”), the dissenters believe desalination is backward thinking.

“Nature has limits and we need to figure out how to live within them,” Longinotti told the crowd. “We need to show by our example that we’re going in the right direction.”

 


Is there room for compromise? Be a part of the discussion. 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 (2)Add Comment
...
written by Karin Grobe, April 21, 2011
Thanks for your excellent article on the League of Women Voters’ Desalination Debate. Mike Rotkin’s claim that city studies show curtailing water use more than 15 % would result in “business failures and health and sanitation problems in individual homes” is way off-base. He simply needs to review the city’s 2009 Water Shortage Contingency Plan, which details allocation for different levels of water shortage.
At 25% shortage, residences would need to meet a goal of 73% of normal year water use. The goal for businesses would be 92% of normal use, the goal for the two golf courses would be 51 % of normal use, and the goal for coast agriculture would be 90% of normal use.
If we were to have a 50% water shortage, residences would need to meet a goal of 48% of normal year water use. The goal for businesses would be 70% of normal use, the goal for the two golf courses would be 20% of normal use, and the goal for coast agriculture would be 67% of normal use.
The goals would be met through rationing, signage in commercial buildings, and reduction of landscape/golf course/agriculture account water budgets.
The 2009 Water Shortage Contingency Plan also substantiates Rick Longinotti’s claim that a worst-case drought actually has occurred only once in the last 90 years. The Plan’s graph of annual stream discharges from the San Lorenzo River for the years 1921-2007 shows that the drought of 1977-78 was the most extreme water shortage in the 90 years for which there is data.
City representatives should show respect for the public by engaging in fact-based discussions on this issue.

...
written by Debbie Cook, April 20, 2011
"desalination has proven to be the only feasible route to augment the water supply"

Please tell me where it has been "feasible?" Tampa? Catalina? Yuma? Santa Barbara? Key West? Victoria? Perth? Sydney?

These agencies need to do their homework. I suggest starting with Australia's recently released Urban Water Report.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Panel Discussion

After 39 years in business, the owner of Santa Cruz’s Atlantis Fantasyworld looks back at how comics have evolved

 

Passion Week, Eclipse, Full Moon, Aries Festival, Passover and Easter

We have entered a most important week of multiple festivals. Three ages and religious festivals—stages for humanity’s development—are occurring simultaneously. Aries (Age of Laws), Pisces (Age of Faith), and Aquarian (Age of Science and Humanity); Jewish, Christian/Catholic and Esoteric teachings. The first of the three Spring Festivals occurs Saturday along with the full moon, a total lunar eclipse (something in form and matter has come to an end, its usefulness completed). It’s also Passover, celebrating the passage from the Taurus to the Aries Age, symbolized by the Hebrew people’s walk of 40 years from Egypt through the Sinai Desert to Canaan (land of milk and honey), culminating with Moses receiving the 10 Commandments—laws that directed humanity through the Aries Age. Passover celebrates their safe passage out of Egypt, “the Angel passing over the Jewish homes, safeguarding their first born.” The Aries Festival (first of three Spring Festivals—Aries, Taurus, Gemini) celebrates the love of God. Accompanying the Aries light (light of life itself) are the forces of restoration (restoring humanity’s hope) and the spirit of resurrection (uplifting humanity in need of new education, resources, direction and guidance). Guidance to be given by the New Group of World Servers. Saturday’s solar Aries festival (at the full moon lunar eclipse) is celebrated by the New Group of World Servers worldwide. Join us everyone. Sunday is Easter, celebrated by humanity worldwide. The three religious festivals arriving simultaneously signal that the coming new world religion is at hand, a synthesis and integration of all religions. We stand with our brothers and sisters everywhere in celebration. We see what is no longer needed—that which created separations between us—disappear. We stand forward together in the new light, with the spirit of resurrection directing us. Hosanna!

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Let’s Get Wrecked

Unsung ’60s musicians score in pop doc ‘The Wrecking Crew’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wheat Will Rock You

Companion Bakeshop scores again with Ryan Roseman’s harvest

 

What’s the best/worst April Fools’ Day prank you’ve ever heard?

This girl in my seventh grade class convinced our entire Christian school that she had cancer. Everybody started praying for her and stopped all the classes. At the end of the day she let everybody know it was an April Fools’ joke. Zach Scotton, Santa Cruz, Retail Manager

 

Odonata Wines

Easter is coming up this weekend, the perfect excuse to treat yourself and your loved ones to a little bit of bubbly with Easter brunch—and a special bubbly at that.

 

Ella’s at the Airport

Tiffany Ella King on her new fine dining restaurant in Watsonville