In the News

Letter to the Editor

Secret of Desal

Santa Cruz Weekly, 9/18/12

[Re: “Pour Communication,” Sept. 12] You’ve run a provocative letter or two lately, so let me pitch you another one:

The City of Santa Cruz wants taxpayers to pay for half of a desalination plant that will mainly benefit Capitola, Soquel, and Aptos.

We the citizens do not know, really, whether personal conservation and gray water reuse would be enough to solve Santa Cruz’s water woes.

We do not know. The city has not told us. The City Council simply says, “Desal is the best answer. Trust us.”

And they want you to take their word. Because Santa Cruz might survive without desal. But the communities east of 41st Avenue would die.

Santa Cruz gets its water mainly from rainfall runoff, but the Soquel Creek Water District relies heavily on ground water: wells. For decades it has taken more water out its aquifers than nature puts back in. And so its water table has sunk to over 80 feet below sea level.

 Eventually the seawater will roll in and most of the wells will begin producing salt water. It’s already started. If it goes on, sooner or later it’s game over for Capitola, Aptos, Soquel. Ask the water district: there is no other source of water.

Except desal. The desal plant will provide the additional water source that the Soquel Creek Water District needs to renew its water table. The process will take ten years and will require extreme conservation measures as well, perhaps forever.

Soquel Creek won’t take a drop of the desalinated water, however; it’ll “give” the entire output of the desal operation to Santa Cruz, and take in exchange some of Santa Cruz’s water from the San Lorenzo River watershed.

But if Santa Cruz decides to meet its water needs through conservation and recycling, Soquel Creek would have to bear the entire cost of a desal operation it probably couldn’t raise the money to pay for. And the aquifers would fill with salt water, and Mid-County east of 41st would wither. Population, real estate prices, the economy, employment, tourism: it would all drop.

And that would hurt a lot of people in Santa Cruz. Our economy does not stop at the city limits. Real estate agents, landscapers, restaurateurs, building contractors, retailers, wealthy people who own large amounts of income and commercial property county-wide: they would all suffer. And so might you.

But they couldn’t tell the voters that. Some of us might be unwilling to pay higher taxes to bail out Aptos and Capitola. Better then just to say “desal is the only choice,” and “trust us.”

Do you?

Jim Jones

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