In the News

Santa Cruz remains “critically dry”

By Matt de Nesnera
KION News, 2/22/12

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- The City of Santa Cruz is facing a "critically dry" water year, and with no rain in sight, water officials said if conditions remain the same there will likely be voluntary or mandatory water restrictions this summer.

Toby Goddard, water conservation manager for the City of Santa Cruz Water Department, said there have been only four years in the last century with this little rain through February. 

Since July 1, the city has recorded 10.57 inches of rain.  Rainfall totals are down by about 50%, but critically, stream flow is currently 20% below normal.  "It's stream flow that matters most," said Goddard, explaining that the San Lorenzo River and coastal streams supply about three-quarters of the water for the city's 92,000 customers.

Goddard struck a positive tone when discussing the Loch Lomond Reservoir, which is 97% full thanks in part to a cool, foggy summer and last year's abundant runoff.  But any ability for the reservoir to act as a buffer in drier times is tempered, as it only accounts for 20% of the city's supply. 

It has been a beautiful winter across the Central Coast, and the National Weather Service forecast remains sunny for the next seven days.  Wednesday, temperatures in the Santa Cruz area were expected to approach the 70s. 

Goddard said if the outlook doesn't change, water restrictions could be in place this summer.  The extent of any restrictions would be decided in late March or early April when a recommendation is brought before the water commission and the city council.

In an effort to "conserve, protect and create reliable water resources," the Santa Cruz Water District and Soquel Creek Water District have joined together to share costs associated with evaluating a proposed desalination facility.  The plant, which is currently in the environmental review stage, would generate up to 2.5 million gallons of drinking water per day, with plans to dispose of the resulting brine through the existing city wastewater treatment facility. 

The desalination plant is controversial.  Mayor Don Lane and Councilmember David Terrazas recently announced they plan to ask the voters to approve or reject the construction of a desalination facility.  Opponents of desal in Santa Cruz, who propose alternatives including regional water transfers, are also circulating a petition to ask for an up or down vote this November.

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