Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Mar 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

A Change of Plans

news1After Santa Cruz’s reset on plans for desalination, the Soquel Creek Water District assesses its options

The City of Santa Cruz has paused plans for desalination in the wake of community opposition, but the option could still be on table for the Soquel Creek Water District.

Looming threats of seawater intrusion in its aquifers have the district—which serves about 38,000 customers from Capitola to La Selva Beach—seeking a number of possible solutions to the problem of maintaining its water supply on a long-term level. There’s also the additional, ongoing threat of drought. These problems have prompted the district’s board of trustees to plan a series of public meetings over the next four months to explore its options.

“Time wise, we’re worried about seawater intrusion,” says Dr. Thomas LaHue, who sits on the district’s board of directors. “Seawater intrusion is happening very close by.”

Unlike the Santa Cruz Water Department, which relies largely on surface water, the Soquel Creek Water District relies entirely on groundwater from the Soquel-Aptos Groundwater Basin, which is over-pumped. When the groundwater basin dips below sea level—which it has in some of the district’s wells nearest to the coast—seawater can contaminate the well’s water supply. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, saltwater intrusion decreases freshwater storage in aquifers and, in extreme cases, can result in the abandonment of supply wells.

“It’s hard to predict exactly when and how fast it will occur,” LaHue says of seawater intrusion. “But it’s coming, imminently.”

To prevent seawater intrusion from continuing to move inland, the district must reduce overall groundwater pumping by 35 percent for at least 20 years.

The district had been counting on the joint desalination plant with the City of Santa Cruz in order to obtain supplemental water that would allow it to rest its over-drafted wells. The two entities spent a combined estimated $15 million in pursuing a desalination plant, including $1.6 million on a draft environmental impact report. However, city officials in Santa Cruz recently announced they were tabling a planned 2014 public vote on desal as a result of community opposition.

LaHue, a 10-year member of the board, says it’s essential that the district get its water levels to a protective status as soon as possible. The specific protective level varies at different parts of the district, but it refers to the level above sea level that the water supply must be at to avoid contamination by seawater. The board hopes to reduce groundwater pumping by 1,492-acre feet to reach this goal.

One possible solution being considered by the district is to pursue desalination without the cooperation of the City of Santa Cruz.

news1-2Dr. Thomas LaHue, who sits on the Soquel Creek Water District board of directors, says seawater intrusion in the district's water supply is imminent.“You anticipate things will come up but now it’s taken this long [already] and Santa Cruz is at a reset,” says LaHue. “We can’t put all our eggs in that basket. [A solution] is not a luxury—it’s too important.”

The board recently heard from representatives of DeepWater Desal, a company that has proposed a regional multimillion-dollar desalination plant in Moss Landing that would also serve areas in Monterey and Salinas. DeepWater Desal’s plant would pull water from a deep-water canyon in the Monterey Bay and turn it into fresh water. The DeepWater plant would be much larger than the proposed desal plant for Santa Cruz—about 10 times bigger.

Representatives from the company say deepwater desalination is safer than other forms of desal.

Still, while the Soquel Creek Water District hasn’t experienced as much of a negative backlash over desalination as the City of Santa Cruz has, the prospect isn’t without opposition.

Rick Longinotti, a founder of Desal Alternatives, has questioned the district’s decision to continue to consider pursuing desalination. He’s criticized the district for what he says are “draconian” estimates of needed reductions, and has urged for stronger conservation efforts.

Last week, the district heard about surface water supply options, including water transfers with neighboring agencies. 

John Ricker, the county’s water resources director, told the board he expects to complete a detailed report on the potential for water sharing by the end of the year. 

In addition to possible water sharing with Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley water districts, Jerry Paul, a Santa Cruz engineer, has presented another possible plan. Paul’s proposed “Lochquifer” plan would divert river water into the Loch Lomond Reservoir and then use it to supply Soquel Creek for recharging its basin. Specifically, says Paul, the river water would help the overdrawn Purisma and Santa Margarita aquifers.

The board of directors will look at all of the potential ideas and then determine which merit a deeper look and more research. Once the ideas are narrowed down, they will go to a vote. There is no precise timeline for that at this point, however.

“We’re working as fast as we can on these other options,” says LaHue. “We need [enough information] to be able to explain to people what their life would look like in each scenario.”

Whichever avenues are chosen, LaHue says conservation will remain a key component.

“We’ve had all these conservation efforts and we will continue to do so,” LaHue says. “We asked for a voluntary reduction of 15 percent this summer and we reached half that. Every person has to make the change.”

Currently, the average water usage in the district is 70 gallons per person per day, says fellow director Dr. Don Hoernschemeyer. To meet the 35 percent reduction, that usage level would need to go down to 50 gallons per person per day.

Voluntary conservation is not a reliable option for achieving this reduction, the directors say.

“Some people will choose not to, others won’t have a choice,” says Hoernschemeyer. “We have to explore every possibility for supplemental water.”

Mandatory rationing is also a possibility directors will mull over, though its potential success seems shaky. The board would have to figure out how to enforce it and how to regulate it, and that could be difficult, says Hoernschemeyer. That’s a topic that’s scheduled to be discussed at a public meeting sometime in January. A February meeting will focus on recycled water options.

Starting next year, the district also plans to begin monthly billing in an effort to help customers have a better understanding of how much water they are using daily, according to the district’s general manager, Kim Adamson.

Despite the many concerns, the district’s board of directors comes at this current situation with an advantage over previous years. Thanks to work completed in the past two years, the board now has better data and measurements and detailed maps and charts assessing the district’s water supply status.

“In the past, the district didn’t really have good measurements of the state of the aquifers,” Hoernschemeyer says. “We’ve put in more monitoring wells—the analysis has been approved—and the district now has a much better, more accurate assessment of the levels. “

That information will be invaluable in the months to come as the district grapples with how to move forward in a way that allows it to meet its obligations to customers.

“My goal has always been [that] when I leave the district, I want to be able to feel like it’s going to be OK for another 50 years or so,” LaHue says.

Comments (4)Add Comment
Whiskey's for drinkin', Water's for fightin'...
written by SLV citizen, November 14, 2013
SLVWD got caught trying to take a $6,000,000 loan, (on backs of only 7,500 ratepayers),plus 65% rate increase, to build $12,000,000 DreamCampus, also asking ratepayers $4,500,000 to increase inter-tie flow with Scotts Valley. Santa Cruz, Soquel increasing connection to S. V., seeking regional water. Sorry S.V.,-S.C.,-U.C.S.C.! We're informed in SLV now, SLVWD waterboard, except Dir. Brown, goodbye!!! We'll recall or vote 'em out .
Water Soquel
written by Bob, November 14, 2013
Their watershed characteristic are different from that of Santa Cruz. They will essentially take water from the San Lorenzo watershed and use it in their watershed. However, their acquifer is gone forever and their isnt much they can do about it.
Chair, Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives
written by Ricky Longinotti, November 13, 2013
ThankDesal Alternatives supports the Soquel District's goal to reduce pumping 31% below 2012 levels. The good news from County Water Resources Manager, John Ricker, is that $92 million in infrastructure improvements to Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and Soquel Creek District will allow water transfers that will get Soquel Creek District 90% of the way to their pumping reduction goal.
It's $40 million less expensive than the capital costs of desalination, way cheaper than the operating costs, and will last much longer than a desal plant. And its far less energy intensive to operate.
...
written by s. newman, November 13, 2013
It seems the Soquel Creek water board doesn't have a great sense of urgency about the situation. At the meeting they were invited to hire Jerry Paul to flesh out the details of his Loquifer water sharing plan, but they declined. They chose to wait till after the meeting in February next year before considering doing this.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015

In 40 years of publishing, Good Times has seen a lot of “bests.”

 

Spring Triangle: Three Spring Festivals—Aries, Taurus, Gemini

The Spring signs Aries, Taurus and Gemini constitute a triangle of force that sets the template for the nine signs that follow and the template for the entire year (Spring 2015 - Spring 2016) ahead. Aries initiates new ideas, Taurus stabilizes the new thinking of Aries and Gemini takes the initiating stabilized ideas of Aries/Taurus and disperses them to all of humanity. It is in this way that humanity learns new things, with the help of Mercury, the messenger. As Spring unfolds, three elements emerge: the Fire of Aries (initiating new ideas), the Earth of Taurus (anchoring the ideas of God through Mercury) and the Air of communicating Gemini. These three signs/elements are the Three Spring Festivals. They are the “triangle of force” forming the template (patterns) of energy for the upcoming new year. After these three we then have the soothing, calming, warming, nurturing and tending waters of the mother (Cancer). Cancer initiates our next season under the hot suns of summer. Planets, stars and signs create the Temple of Light directing humanity towards all things new. March 29 is Palm Sunday, when the Christ, World Teacher, was led into Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (humility). Palms waving above His head, signified recognition of the Christ’s divinity. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before the Easter (Resurrection Festival). Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, the week of capture, imprisonment, passion, sacrifice, crucifixion, death and resurrection of the christ. All events in the Christ’s life represent events (initiations) that humanity experiences through many lifetimes. We turn our attention to these holy events this week. Their concepts portray and reveal to us greater spiritual understanding. Then, Aries, the “light of life itself” shines through us.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015 Editor's Picks

BEST NIGHT CAP WARSAW MULE AT SHADOWBROOK
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Spring Spirits

Sean Venus’ gin straight up, remembering Rosa’s and a tasting of Hungarian wines

 

What’s your favorite most recent outdoor discovery in Santa Cruz?

A hike that’s across from Waddell Beach. I didn’t realize you could go across the highway and do a super simple loop, and it’s beautiful. You can see the coastline. Liz Porter, Santa Cruz, Community Outreach

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Muscat 2012

 

Front Street Kitchen

Pop-up spot attracts paleo crowd with locally sourced low-carb meals