Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Mar 27th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Down the Drain

news1 waterAs water restrictions tighten, Santa Cruz wastewater continues to go to waste

Whether it’s taking shorter showers, fixing leaky fixtures, or being more conscientious about irrigating gardens, Santa Cruz residents are taking extreme measures to get through the current water crisis. Since stage three water restrictions were implemented in May, locals have been doing what they can to conserve, and it shows.

Before the new restrictions, the Santa Cruz Water Department hoped to reduce the city’s water consumption to 8.2 million gallons of water per day (mgd) by the end of May. At the completion of the month, the city averaged 8.3 mgd, compared to the normal average of about 10 mgd. Rosemary Menard, director of the city’s Water Department, sees it as a good sign for the conservation effort.

“I would say that we have had really great cooperation,” says Menard. “I think the community has had the information it needed to take the steps that needed to be taken.”

But for engineer and longtime advocate of water reclamation, Peter Haase, conserving water is only one aspect of the larger picture. Haase points out that the millions of gallons of water used by the city each day is subsequently lost to the sea after it leaves the Wastewater Treatment Facility—when it could be put to use.

“That water is being used once, and then being dumped,” says Haase, primary engineer at Fall Creek Engineering. “I think it’s a crime. We need to go to the expense to treat it and reuse it in a variety of ways.”

Although highly treated wastewater is not suitable to drink, other areas of the county—such as Scotts Valley and the Pajaro Valley— have utilized reclaimed wastewater for irrigation and other purposes for years.

“It’s being done all around us,” says Haase.

Scar for the course

One business that knows the importance of recycled water is Pasatiempo Golf Club. The course lies in an unincorporated portion of the county, but purchases its water from the City of Santa Cruz, and accounts for about one percent of the city’s total water use. Due to the stage three water restrictions, the water consumption of golf courses for irrigation purposes has been reduced by 49 percent, leading to browning greens at Pasatiempo, and a small drop in business, according to Scott Hoyt, general manager of the course. “At this point in time, I would have to say that it is affecting us,” says Hoyt. “It’s not drastic or radical, but certainly compared to the first three years that I’ve been here, it’s definitely down a little bit.”

When Hoyt became general manager of the golf course in 2011, the immediate mission given to him by the club’s board of directors was to try and attain recycled water resources from Scotts Valley.

But with so many parties involved—Pasatiempo Golf Club, the Santa Cruz Water Department, Scotts Valley Water District, and the City of Scotts Valley—the process of acquiring Scotts Valley’s treated wastewater has been arduous.

“The wheels of politics turn slowly,” says Hoyt.

The agencies involved have considered a few different ideas to get reclaimed wastewater to the course. One was to build a pipeline from Scotts Valley to Santa Cruz to provide treated wastewater to Pasatiempo, and send fresh water to Scotts Valley. But as it would require the construction of approximately eight miles of pipe, the plan’s high price tag kept it from going anywhere.

Scotts Valley and the golf course then looked into building a pipeline from the water reclamation plant in the city straight to Pasatiempo, but the five miles of pipe, which would have been paid for by the golf course, once again proved to be too expensive.

The most recent strategy up for consideration is to utilize the excess of treated wastewater—already traveling through an outflow line past the golf course—to irrigate Pasatiempo. But a special permit from the state would be required to determine if there were any health concerns associated with the use of the secondary treated water on the course, as the wastewater the city uses for local businesses and residential developments is treated to the tertiary level, which is the highest quality for treated wastewater.

Hoyt has to wait on the California Department of Public Health to decide if the use of secondary- treated wastewater poses any health risks, but because all of the course’s irrigation is done at night, and their drinking fountains and buildings are connected to a separate plumbing system, Hoyt believes the dangers are nonexistent.

Even if the state doesn’t approve of the secondary water use for Pasatiempo’s irrigation, Hoyt, with the help of a consulting firm, has located a new water source under the course’s twelfth hole.

“We’re waiting for either approval on that [permit], or we’re going to start digging for a well that we have preliminary indications is useable, and once we find out one of those will produce, we need to construct a storage tank and pumping station,” says Hoyt.

If the golf course gets the permit, it will still need resident approval, modifications to the outflow line coming from Scotts Valley, further negotiations with Scotts Valley Water District, and the construction of the tank and pumping station to mix the reclaimed water with potable water from Santa Cruz. Ideally, Hoyt would like to have all three sources flowing into the golf course: the potable water from Santa Cruz, the treated wastewater from Scotts Valley, and the resources from the well, which lie about 1,500 feet underground.

Going with the flow

Piret Harmon, general manager of the Scotts Valley Water District, also hopes to bring multiple water sources to Scotts Valley, which relies mostly on ground water at present.

“It’s like the stock market,” says Harmon. “The more diverse portfolio you have, the better off you are, because different years and climate conditions affect sources differently.”

As for the future use of recycled water in the city of Santa Cruz, Haase says one of the biggest historic barriers lies between the two entities involved in the managing of the city’s water supply: the Water Department, which handles water as an asset, and the Wastewater Treatment Facility, which treats the water as a waste product. The Water Supply Advisory Committee, a group of citizens tasked with making recommendations for the city’s future use of water, will present their findings on the subject to the city council later this summer.

“They need to look at the fact that this wastewater has value,” says Harmon. “In the long run, it’s just going to be the way it is. Recycled water is going to have to play a role. It’s too valuable. But it’s a paradigm shift. Right now we treat it as a waste, and we need to get to a point where we treat it as a resource.”

Comments (2)Add Comment
Misplaced squeamishness
written by Jim Jones, June 26, 2014
Have you ever thought about what happens to water after it pours down from above? What it lands on, what it absorbs along the way, what birds and other animals deposit in the lakes and streams it inhabits?

Of course you have. That's why we have water treatment. So why, then, is water that is reclaimed from sewage and _then_ put through water treatment really much different. I suspect that it isn't. I suspect that the facts would prove it. And I suspect that much of our water "shortage" is due to misplaced cultural squeamishness.
Please Do More Research
written by Bill Smallman, June 25, 2014
Highly treated RO waste water is drinkable. It's legal in the U.S. detained 2 months seeping through packed sand for 1 mile + reduces demand of wells. It will be legal straight from the plant after further extensive chemical analysis and testing. "Water Supply Advisory Committee" has had the same agenda for years and no recommendations that led to action. Recycle has a few side benefits like a bike path, intrusion barrier, solar power and an emergency intertie to "Deep Water Desal" all for far less than the original Desal plan. See SCWaterSolutions.com for more details.

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

 

The Magic Touch

Stage magician vs. charlatans in engaging ‘An Honest Liar’
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