In the News

Water reservoir beneath UCSC should be explored

By Gerald Weber
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 02/06/11

Regarding the recent LAFCO meeting and water issues, it is interesting that there has been no mention of the sizeable groundwater resource that underlies the UC Santa Cruz campus.

The campus geology is unique in California. It is underlain by a large block of limestone marble which has led to the formation of a karst landscape -- one in which there is little surface runoff. Rainwater falling on campus drains through the sub-surface in solution-formed cavities and passages. Visualize the limestone under the campus as a vast sponge holding a large amount of water.

Among a series of groundwater studies 20 years ago, a well drilled near the "farm" to a depth of about 220 feet was pump tested in January 1989. During a seven-day pump test, approximately 1 million gallons of water was pumped from the well. The water level in the well dropped about 2.7 feet -- a very small amount.

Before, during and until well after the test ended, we monitored the springs that flow from the campus groundwater system. Despite producing a million gallons of water in a single week, there was no discernible effect on the spring flows. The amount of water in storage under the campus is estimated to be about 3,000 acre-feet, or approximately 980 million gallons.

Obviously, additional studies should be done to evaluate the size of this resource and if it can be effectively developed without significant environmental impact.

In an era when we are considering desal plants, I think it is essential that this reservoir of water be considered as a possible resource. Regardless of one's political beliefs or reservations regarding the usage of this resource, it is reasonable at this time to determine if it can and should be used to alleviate the effects of drought and/or development in the Santa Cruz area.

Gerald Weber is a Santa Cruz geologic consultant.

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