In the News

Soquel Creek Water District moves forward on conservation plan
Full plan review set for next month

By Jessica A. York, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 3/19/14

The Soquel Creek Water District labored for more than two hours Tuesday over a proposed customer water-use reduction plan and will continue discussions next month.

Reviewing more than two dozen items during a special meeting, the board came to consensus on several points, though many will require fine tuning before approval at the next meeting, April 1.

Single-family homes may be limited to 70 gallons to 80 gallons per person per day, while multi-family residences may see a lower limit.

An earlier proposed 65-gallon limit for both would have affected about 47 percent of customers, who would see an average bill increase of $320 in the summer if their consumption stayed the same, officials said. Figures for the more lenient water budget proposal were not immediately available.

The board also supported measures to increase water conservation equipment installation requirements and to cover significant rebates for that technology.

A sticking point for board members and public speakers was whether to make a strong statement about water conservation through stringent penalties or ease customers into the strategy in time.

"If we fail in phase one, we'll have a black eye in phases two and three," board Vice President Bruce Daniels said.

The board green-lighted plans to begin enforcing the plan, once finalized, in the fall and to hire four permanent full-time staff and part-time or short-term staff, including an additional staff member to monitor wasted water. The district also will seek cost proposals to create a public focus group and develop a public outreach plan.

The statewide drought emergency and its heightened state of water conservation awareness is affording the water district an opportunity to address its own, if unrelated, water crisis, conservation manager Ron Duncan told the board.

The district's water supply comes from underground aquifers, not surface water, and so therefore is not as heavily affected by the drought. However, overdraft in the aquifer has made the groundwater basin vulnerable to saltwater intrusion.

Also Tuesday, the board voted to approve reallocating an additional $20,000 to Kennedy/Jenks Consultants to investigate supplemental supply options. The consultant, initially hired to advise the district on a seawater desalination project, was allocated $25,000 in November from the desal fund to investigate alternatives. Tuesday's vote continues that effort, with a focus on looking into joining the Moss Landing Deep Water Desal Project, a water exchange project with Santa Cruz and organizing an alternatives evaluation workshop.

The April 1 meeting will be held at the Capitola City Council Chamber, 420 Capitola Ave., to accommodate a larger audience

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