In the News


Bruce Van Allen: Fill the gaps in water conservation plan

By Bruce Van Allen, Special to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, 7/6/14

Soon the Santa Cruz City Council will consider a new Master Conservation Plan. Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives supports the new plan, which consists of some well-researched strategies that will reduce water demand. However, there are two important gaps to fill in our conservation strategy.

Just a small percentage of the plan's anticipated savings will come from outdoor conservation measures. And savings in outdoor water use is the highest priority, since it is summer shortages that drive the city's search for a supplemental water supply.

The city has a tool to encourage conservation in the landscape that is currently underutilized: tiered water pricing. Currently, residential customers are charged a tiered rate. The more water customers use, the higher the rate at the top tier of use. However, there is no tiered pricing for nonresidential customers. Those customers pay the equivalent of what residential users pay for indoor water use. Hence golf courses and dedicated landscape accounts pay less for irrigation water than do homeowners.

The other important gap to fill in city conservation efforts is a water-neutral plan for growth. Left unchecked, growth in water demand will erode the city's water security by putting more strain on summer reserves. The city has the opportunity to allow new development without increasing water demand. It can adopt a water demand offset program where developers fund conservation measures to fully offset the growth in water demand due to the new construction. This program has been in effect since 2003 in the Soquel Creek Water District.

On July 18, Ron Duncan from the Soquel Creek District will describe the district's water-neutral growth program, and improvements the district is considering making to the program. Joining Ron is Conner Everts, from California's Environmental Water Caucus, who will discuss his trip to Australia to learn the innovative conservation strategies that Australians developed during 10 years of drought. The event is free of charge and takes place at the Louden Nelson Center at 7 p.m.

Former Mayor Bruce Van Allen is the spokesman for Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives.

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