In the News


Terry Chandler: Making sense of water wars

Opinion, Santa Cruz Sentinel 6/16/13

Recent Sentinel articles suggest there are several broad factors contributing to our water woes.

First is supply.

The city of Santa Cruz depends on surface water. Soquel Creek Water District depends on well water. I haven't learned the source of supply for Scotts Valley Water District.

Second is demand.

Santa Cruz has committed to accommodate the future water needs of its major client, UC Santa Cruz. We were reminded this week in the Sentinel that the Pasatiempo Golf Course is also a major client.

We also learned this week Scotts Valley Water District is effectively dumping treated water into the bay because its treatment capacity exceeds client demand.

Adding to the demand complexity, Soquel Creek must recharge the aquifer to slow salt water intrusion and Santa Cruz is required to maintain the San Lorenzo River fish habitat.

Third is storage capacity.

The city of Santa Cruz  owns the Loch Lomond reservoir and the Westlake reservoir. Years ago, Westlake was a true reservoir until it was emptied because the roof was failing and replacement was deemed prohibitive. The city replaced the reservoir with four modest storage tanks and is only now building more tanks. Built-out capacity hasn't been shared but is presumably less than that of the old reservoir. Our elected officials and appointed managers have created a "regional" water district that includes the city of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek demands without considering Scotts Valley's surplus capacity. By that formula, they concluded the only viable solution is to build a desalination plant.

I'd propose consideration of these ideas or at least their addition to the water wars debate:

1. Create a true regional water zone by including Scotts Valley Water District.
2. Employ the Scotts Valley surplus treated capacity to augment Santa Cruz City and Soquel Creek supplies.
3. Apply for an emergency variance to allow the use of gray water for irrigation in the regional water zone.
4. Give serious consideration to increasing storage capacity via water tanks or disused quarries.

How our elected officials and appointed managers can condone such conspicuous waste (dumping treated water into the bay), bureaucratic "red-lining" (individual independent water districts that don't play well together), and no-bid solutions (a multi-million dollar desal plant), while promising the public welfare is being served should also be part of the water wars debate.

Terry Chandler lives in Santa Cruz.

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