Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Jan 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Desal Divide

desalinationThe debate continues ...

What started as a public Water Study Session on Nov. 1 shifted into a continuation of the longstanding debate over building a desalination facility on the shores of Santa Cruz.

“It felt like for the first time in a long time there was actually a civil discussion that was focused on the issues,” says Bill Kocher, Santa Cruz Water Department director. “It was great.”

But not all participants came away as satisfied.

Rick Longinotti of Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives spoke for 15 minutes during the meeting. He says the public process in place does not provide adequate hearing time to alternative viewpoints. To address this concern, Desal Alternatives has proposed a joint fact-finding session in which different water interest groups would discuss their findings with the help of a professional facilitator.

Kocher, however, says a fact-finding session would be useless. “I really don’t think there’s much dispute about facts,” he says. “The facts are the facts.”

For example, he explains, water demand in Santa Cruz is currently 3.1 billion gallons and it used to be 4.2 billion gallons. This, Kocher says, is an inarguable fact. However, Kocher says demand will rise again.

“[Desal Alternatives doesn’t] agree with me on that,” he says. “Maybe they’re right, but the probability of them being right is very slim. The probability of me being right is based of history. It’s pretty darn good.”

Longinotti argues that water demand is not an uncontrollable variable but a policy choice. “It’s about setting a policy goal which alleviates the need for this huge financial expenditure,” he says. “You can freeze demand, and all kinds of good things happen as a result.”

Desal Alternatives pushes for increased conservation methods, such as water neutral development, which would require all new growth projects to build a way to neutralize water usage into their plans.

Longinotti also discussed the importance of making serious water conservation into a “mainstream” idea at the Nov. 1 meeting. As an example of this, he pointed, amidst friendly crowd laughter, to the celebrity Cameron Diaz who claims to abide by the “If it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down,” mantra.

Kocher says he has not heard any realistic alternative suggestions. “The difference is between people who are charged with carrying out plans that can impact a lot of people, and people who have ideas about the way things maybe could be but don’t really have responsibility for the outcome,” he says.

Representatives from the Soquel Creek Water District and Santa Cruz Water Department were the first to address the city council on Nov. 1. In keeping with their preceding policy, the Water Department discussed the necessity of building a desalination plant in Santa Cruz in order to curb disaster in a serious drought situation.

Mike Rotkin, former city council member who is a leader in the Sustainable Water Coalition, said during the study session that desalination is a necessary option to provide suitable water for the community. He said desalination critics are overly optimistic about the city's ability to increase conservation to make up for shortfalls.

Since water demand is much lower than projections made in 2005, a key component for backing the desalination project is the looming environmental concern for endangered fish species. The city updated its Integrated Water Plan (IWP) shortly after learning that the state and federal fisheries departments plan to limit the city’s access to surface water in the San Lorenzo River, and potentially other surface sources, for the preservation of aquatic species.

Some factors that delay decisions on the proposed desalination plant are the incomplete Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and estimated budget. The Water Department says its main focus now is on completing an EIR by March or April 2012.

Kocher says until the EIR is complete, design work will remain on hold, and, until the design is further along, a budget is impossible to estimate.

Andy Schiffrin has been involved with Santa Cruz water issues for years, both as a former member of the city water commission and as an environmental studies teacher at UC Santa Cruz. At the study session, he summarized questions that he says should be answered before a decision is made on the desalination plant: Will the current low per-capita water demand continue into the future? What impact will the endangered species requirements have on the current water supply? How much more conservation can we consistently achieve?

“Until we have the answers to these questions, I think it is necessary to continue to evaluate the desalination project, but it is also critical to pursue additional conservation projects,” Schiffrin said. “Contrary to what some people seem to think, I have not decided desalination project is necessary. ... Many of the concerns raised about desal are reasonable and it definitely needs additional and serious study.”

Comments (3)Add Comment
...
written by merle moshiri, November 18, 2011
desal is not the answer to any water problem. Its a hugely expensive boondoggle for corporate and privvate water profiteers to take State money and let the rate payers pay it back while they skip on to their next project. Don't be fooled. Alll the water we will ever need is right here rigtht now its the management of it that needs to change.
Merle Moshiri
Huntington Beach, CA
...
written by Jean Brocklebank, November 18, 2011
I sat through the entire "study session." The Desal Develoers (scwd2 and Mike Rotkin) had 2 hours to address the city Council. Desal Alternatives had 15 minutes. Longinotti presented some very pertinent facts, along with some very interesting ideas. I like Patton's elephant poem. To it I will add Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has." For more on a myriad of alternatives to a $130 million desal plant, see http://desalalternatives.org/
...
written by Gary A. Patton, November 16, 2011
Those who enjoy the privilege of utilizing political power to get what they want almost always claim that the "facts are the facts." An elephant in the middle of the room is a "fact," too, but as the Six Blind men discovered, the truth and significance of the "facts" we confront are not all that clear. Too bad the City Council and its appointed officers are more focused on doing what they want than in working with the public to achieve a common understanding of the "facts." In other words, I'm with Rick Longinotti in this debate.

For those not familiar with the "The Blind Men and the Elephant," you can read the poem right here - http://www.gapatton.net/2010/0...d-men.html

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Force of Nature

Santa Cruz’s Carlie Statsky brings her love of the natural world to the hyper-personal art of wedding photography

 

Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius

The magical time of Mercury’s retrograde cycle is here once again, until Feb. 11, and then some. The Mercury retro cycle actually lasts eight weeks when we consider its retrograde shadow, giving us six months a year for review. We know the rules of Mercury retro: Be careful with everything; cars, driving, money, resources, friends, friendships, groups, interactions, thinking, talking, communications. Avoid big purchases, important meetings and important repairs. Mercury retrograde times are for review, reassessment and rest. Our minds are overloaded from the last Mercury retro. Our minds need to assess what we’ve done since October—eliminating what is not needed, keeping what’s important, preparing for new information in the next three months (till mid-May). Mercury in Aquarius retrograde … we reinvent ourselves, seek the unusual, we don’t hide, we’re just careful. We live in two worlds; outer appearances and inner reckonings, with both sides of our brain activated. Yet, like the light of the Gemini twins, one light waxes (inner world), the other (outer realities) wanes. Like Virgo, we see what’s been overlooked—assessing, ordering and organizing information. It’s an entirely inner process. When speaking we may utter only half of the sentence. We’re in the underworld, closer to Spirit, eyes unseeing, senses alerted, re-doing things over and over till we sometimes collapse. Because we’re in other realms, we’re wobbly, make mistakes, and don’t really know what we want. It’s not a time for decisions. Not yet. It’s a time of review. And completing things. Mercury retro: integration, slowing down, resolution, rapprochement.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of January 23

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Bye Bye Benten!

Benten closing, plus Award-winning gin, a massive burrito and chocolate review

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Scanning the shelves of Deluxe Foods of Aptos, which carries an impressive selection of local and imported wines, I picked up a bottle of Trout Gulch Vineyards Chardonnay 2012, described as “a local favorite” by the busy market.

 

Cremer House

What’s old is cutting-edge again in Felton

 

How are you going to make a tangible difference in your community this year?

Spread more kindness and compassion.