In the News

Soquel Creek Water board hikes fees for new developments

By Shanna McCord, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 7/10/13

SOQUEL -- Soquel Creek Water District officials say they need a new water source, and without one on the horizon, an increase in conservation by developers or a moratorium on new users are the only options to secure the existing supply.

District board members agreed Tuesday to increase water demand offsets to 160 percent for residential and commercial developers, up from the previous requirement of 120 percent.

The goal is to offset overall water use in the district 200 percent.

The board also agreed to commission a study to analyze how much water particular businesses use. For example, they will look at how much a bakery uses compared to a shoe store. Such data hasn't been analyzed in 20 years.

Board member Bruce Jaffe said the increase in offsets is just a Band-Aid for the district's dire supply problem.

"We're borrowing from our future," Jaffe said. "The water demand offsets are for everyone. There are no free rides. Our job is to protect the aquifer."

The hike in offsets comes as the water district pumps more water out of the underground aquifers than what comes in each year, which has allowed ocean water to slowly creep in.

In addition, a plan to team with the city of Santa Cruz to build a desalination plant to shore up the area's water supply seems less sure to water officials.

Soquel Creek officials said Tuesday the increase in water demand offsets is the backup plan in the event the desalination plant doesn't pan out due to community opposition.

Board member Bruce Daniels said the desalination plant or a moratorium on new users would solve the district's shortage.

"This is not an attempt to scare our current customers," Daniels said. "This time next year we may not have a choice."

Several developers showed up at Tuesday's meeting, lobbying the directors to not increase the offsets, especially when there are solid plans to develop Aptos Village with new stores, restaurants and housing.

"This feels like a bait and switch," said Jesse Nickel of Barry Swenson Construction, one of the main Aptos Village developers. "It's another burden for this project."

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