In the News

Water cutbacks, supplemental supply needed long term

By Tom LaHue and Bruce Daniels, Special to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, 3/2/14

Despite the recent welcomed rains and Gov. Jerry Brown's declaration of a drought emergency, Soquel Creek Water District is still facing a problem that requires both immediate actions and a long-term solution. Although we recently passed a resolution to support the state's call for 20 percent voluntary cutbacks in water use, much more needs to be done. Our goal is to protect the groundwater basin from contamination/pollution by seawater.

All of our water comes from underground. While droughts have an immediate and visible impact in rivers and streams, they also worsen our existing groundwater shortage. This drought, combined with last year's dry weather, has made our situation more alarming. Water levels in our underground supply are way down. In fact, in some areas they are below sea level.

Hydrologists studying our groundwater supply have said that we need to significantly reduce pumping water for at least 20 years to let rains naturally replenish our basin. If we can't reduce the amount of groundwater we pump, then seawater will invade the underground basin, contaminate our wells, pollute our drinking water supply, and drastically impact our community and quality of life for our citizens. With the drought this year, we'll get very little if any replenishment in our basin.

While Soquel Creek Water District is currently asking for voluntary 20 percent cutbacks, we simultaneously are working to secure an additional supply and develop an even more robust conservation program that will include reducing outdoor water use and mandatory rationing.

If you already are one of our conserving customers, we thank you. If you have not yet adopted a conservation lifestyle, now is the time. How? Replace your grass with drought-tolerant plants or synthetic turf. Water outside with graywater or a rain-catchment system. Replace fixtures with high-efficiency toilets, water-efficient clothes washers, and ultra-low-flow showerheads. Our district offers rebates on all of these as well as free home water use audits. Visit our website,, for tips and rebate details.

How can we reduce the amount of water we pump? Part of the solution is enhanced conservation. But we also need to find a supplemental supply.

The district board is taking a long-term approach because our shortage will continue even after our area gets more rain. In the past six months, we've been working with experts and the community to look at potential new water supplies such as recycled water, water exchanges and desalination.

In the coming months, the board will continue discussions and make decisions. We encourage you to participate in this process and attend our meetings or email us your comments and questions.

March 4: Overview on California groundwater law and discussion on developing regional solutions. (7 p.m., Capitola City Hall, 420 Capitola Ave.)

March 18: Continue discussion on a water-reduction program that includes establishing water budgets that recognize that many of our customers already are conserving so they won't be penalized or greatly impacted. (7 p.m., district office, 5180 Soquel Drive, Soquel)

April 1: Board will enact a long-term water reduction program (7 p.m., Capitola City Hall, 420 Capitola Ave.)

While the drought didn't create our water supply shortage, it has heightened awareness that we need to find long-term solutions. Please cut your water use and do more to use less.

Tom LaHue and Bruce Daniels are president and vice president of the board of the Soquel Creek Water District.

© 2008-2013 scwd2 Desalination Program, All rights reserved.