In the News

Soquel Creek Water District board to weigh summer cutbacks, future hearing on moratorium

By J.M. Brown
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 4/16/13

SOQUEL -- The Soquel Creek Water District board is slated to vote Tuesday on whether to declare a Stage 2 Water Alert and urge customers to conserve 15 percent from May to October.

The recommendation from staff is designed to safeguard underground aquifers from drought after a second consecutive dry winter. The district last put in place a 15 percent cut, which calls for limiting daytime irrigation and other measures, four years ago.

Conservation Manager Ron Duncan said the cost of implementing the cuts through new education programs and increased enforcement efforts will exceed $72,000. The district will assign a temporary employee and new tablet computer for enforcement at a cost of $20,640, make personalized water use reports for 5,000 customers at a cost of $25,000, and create mailings, advertising and door hangers for thousands dollars more.

Duncan also will ask the board to schedule a future hearing on how to bolster a district program that allows customers to offset new or expanded water use by funding the installation of high-efficiency appliances or other devices elsewhere. Credits are expected to run out soon.

The board also will consider scheduling a hearing to discuss a moratorium on new or expanded service in case a proposed desalination facility to be shared with the city of Santa Cruz fails with regulators or voters. A decision on the plant could come in 2014 after an environmental analysis, due in about a month, is evaluated.

"We're trying to look down the road," said interim district director Taj Dufour.

The district is pursuing seawater desalination as a way to halt seawater intrusion reducing groundwater pumping. The board in March approved a policy to put mandatory rationing in place if the desalination plan is not approved, and a moratorium could be part of that policy.


Wednesday, a desalination task force made up of members of the board and members of the Santa Cruz City Council will receive an update on the costs of the proposed Westside facility.

Design and construction is estimated at $114 million. The cost to the city would be nearly $66 million and the district's share would be nearly $49 million.

The two agencies have spent a combined $13.6 million on the proposal to date, according to the Santa Cruz Water Department. More than $3 million was anticipated to be spent through the end of June, but most of the work has been put off due to the delayed environmental report.

The city has hired a consultant for $90,000 to conduct a review of financial issues related to the facility, including how to fund capital costs and the potential impact on rates. Raftelis Financial Consultants of Pasadena also will study the impact if there is no project.

"If people are willing to cut back, we need to do something because we are selling less water," said Piret Harmon, the department's financial manager.

The City Council on April 23 will consider a Water Department request to declare a Stage 1 water shortage in the city, asking customers from Davenport to Live Oak to cut back 5 percent. The city, which also is seeking desalination to protect against drought, isn't seeking as deep a cut as the Soquel Creek district because its reservoir remains healthy after heavy rains in early winter.

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WHAT: Review of Stage 2 Water Alert and 15 percent summer cutbacks, discussion of future moratorium on new connections and modifications to conservation offset program

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Soquel Creek Water District office, 5180 Soquel Drive, Soquel




WHAT: Update on projected desalination design and construction costs, public outreach on environmental review process

WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Soquel Creek Water District office, 5180 Soquel Drive, Soquel


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