In the News

Santa Cruz Government Dries Up on Desal

The hugely controversial plant is put on hold. Can Santa Cruz survive on the limited water it has? What about Soquel, Capitola and Aptos, where wells are drying up?

By Brad Kava, Santa Cruz Patch, 8/21/13

After reviewing 400 comments in an environmental impact report, Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant and City Manager Martin Bernal have recommended taking a proposed $125 million desalination plant off the table for 2013 in favor of more conservation measures.

"They recommend there not be a vote on the project in 2014, while shifting the focus to water conservation and additional public input to craft a new vision for the City’s water supply," wrote assistant city manager Scott Collins.

The announcement came shortly after longtime water manager Bill Kocher announced his retirement. Kocher was a big proponent of using de-salted seawater to help save fish and drying wells in time of drought.

In a joint announcement the two officials said:

  • The Santa Cruz community is not ready for desalination at this time and we need a reset in the ongoing conversation on water supply and desal issues.
  •  Our water challenges in the City of Santa Cruz are part of a regional issue and need a regional approach.
  •  A greater focus on water conservation practices and potential is needed.
  •  Likely impacts of drought events need further exploration.
  •  The vital link between water supply and local economic health is not fully understood at this time.

Bernal added:

1. A vote on desalination should not be pursued by the City in 2014.

2. In order to complete the significant public investment made to date in the draft Environmental Impact Report, to respond to comments by community members offered on the draft EIR, and in order to inform future discussions about the City’s water supply, the EIR will be completed.

3. I will ask the Water Department to bring forward a plan to engage our community to become a top water conservation city in California.

4. I will bring forward a community-involvement plan to City Council to look further into the key areas of interest that have developed and to craft a clear vision for the future of Santa Cruz’s water supply.

The City’s mission-critical obligation to provide a clean and reliable water source is threatened by dry conditions, climate change and state and federal regulators who seek more of our water to support critical fish habitat. We owe it to Santa Cruz to provide enough water to sustain our way of life regardless of these challenges.”

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