In the News

Water shortage: Soquel Creek Water District asks residents, businesses to reduce

By ROMAIN FONSEGRIVES
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 7/10/12

SOQUEL - The Soquel Creek Water District is raising concerns about increases in water consumption amid a shortage alert declared in May.

Rainfall this year has been 70 percent of average, and dry weather lowered underground reserves of the Soquel-Aptos Basin to a critically low level, district officials said.

The agency asked its 38,000 customers from Capitola to La Selva Beach to reduce water use 5 percent May through October. Yet, the district reported its overall water use went up nearly 3 percent in May and nearly 4 percent in June, compared to averages for those same periods during the past three years.

"Water use tends to rise along with warmer weather," Interim General Manager Taj Dufour said. "If we continue down this track, we're not going to make it."

Hydrologists working with the district confirmed aquifers are already critically low and at risk for seawater intrusion. If the ocean were to contaminate the aquifers with salt water, the district's entire water supply would be unfit for public use, Dufour said.

"It's critical because the contamination would take many years to reverse," Dufour said.

The city of Santa Cruz also has asked customers to cut back 5 percent this summer. The city and district are partners in a proposed desalination plant designed to restore the groundwater basin for the district and supplement surface supplies for the city.

Meanwhile, the district has been reaching out to customers, asking them to conserve.

Shortening daily showers by two minutes or washing only full loads of laundry can save five gallons of water per day, Dufour said. Irrigating lawns during the coolest hours of the day - early morning and late evening - can spare 25 gallons daily.

The call for cutbacks has not sunk in with everyone.

Soquel florist Suzie Friedrich said she was not aware there was a shortage alert. The owner of the Flower Mill, Friedrich waters her plants only once a week and orders flowers conservatively.

"I can't save much because I'm not using that much for starters," Friedrich said. "Right now, I'm using as little as I can."

Dufour urged other businesses to save, too.

Under the shortage alert, restaurants can serve water only upon request or can invest long term by installing retrofit urinals. The district can provide all businesses with an evaluation of their water use.

"Certain fixtures can easily be changed out," Dufour said. "It's a quick payback on your water bill."

Private parties owning pumping wells with direct access to the basin's aquifers should also adopt a responsible behavior, Dufour said.

"We ask them to do their part, even though they're not customers," Dufour said.

Follow Romain Fonsegrives on Twitter @romanuevo.

WATER SHORTAGE

The Soquel Creek Water District provides rebates, water-wise house calls and free water saving devices to its customers. District staff also enforces a water waste ordinance which includes requirements for the use of positive shut-off hose nozzles, sprinkler use allowed only between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. and prevention of water waste from over-irrigation.

For more information, call 475-8501 or visit www.soquelcreekwater.org.

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