In the News

Where they stand: Decision makers weigh in on desalination

By J.M. Brown
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 9/29/12  


Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant

"Most in our community will agree Santa Cruz faces a critical water supply issue and development of a desalinization system would be a significant undertaking. At this juncture, it is impossible for me to make a judgment or decide about support for any plans without review of a completed environmental impact report. I voted to complete ongoing investigations and for the right of our citizens to vote on this critical issue."

Councilwoman Lynn Robinson

"While I have served on the council, we have been very vigilant to keep current with the changing dynamics of our water supply as it relates to environmental conditions as well as state and federal mandates. We are currently awaiting the draft environmental impact report for the desal project. I support the vigorous environmental review process we are undertaking and look forward to assessing the viability of the desalination project at that point in time."

Councilman David Terrazas

"Santa Cruz has actively pursued a supplemental water supply source for several decades. Arguably, providing a safe, reliable and sustainable water supply remains one of our community's biggest priorities. While a formal environmental review of the desalination project will soon be released, and no final project decision can be made until the review's completion, I supportcontinued desal project planning at this time because our city and region must identify a stable long-term water supply."


Pamela Comstock, software executive

"The city has already invested a considerable amount of money pursuing the desalination option that to simply walk away from this option now before the people have voted would not be right. Ensuring a sustainable water supply is a long-term, expensive, infrastructure decision. Santa Cruz is an educated community and I will support whichever decision our voters make."

Jake Fusari, carpenter

"Considering the environmental and financial impact of the proposed desalination plant, I am very concerned. We should thoroughly examine all possible alternatives to desalination and consider it our last option. Currently we don't have the capacity to treat the water we already have. This leaves us with an overabundance of water during winter months that is simply pumped back into the ocean. This project deserves more scrutiny."

Don Lane, current mayor

"I support continued planning for desal because we need sufficient water to end the overdraft of the aquifer that underlies the eastern portion of the city water service area, meet federal requirements for protecting local aquatic habitat and still have adequate water for the sustainable function of our community. While I continue to be open to alternatives, many popular alternative schemes don't add up to the significant quantity of water supply we need."

Cynthia Mathews, former mayor

"Years of thorough study, as well as more recent developments, have made it clear that the city needs an additional, reliable water supply as protection against extreme or prolonged drought. While continued conservation and other strategies may offset this need, they do not fully solve the problem. Desal has been identified as the most promising option for meeting the city's long-term needs."

Richelle Noroyan, consultant

"I support the city's ongoing process to research desalination as a supplemental water supply because I cannot think of a more important service our city is obligated to provide. While I am waiting to see the results of the first environmental impact report before favoring or opposing desalination, having a full understanding of options available during drought years is crucial for public health and economic sustainability."

CeCe Pinheiro, nonprofit leader

"Desalination has been in the works for decades. The final decision on whether to construct the plant will be the decision of the voters. I support the vote of the people. An important part of the process is thinking through how to make it the most environmentally sound project possible. It's going to take a lot of energy and the energy could be offset by renewable energy."

Steve Pleich, volunteer

"As a longtime member of Desal Alternatives, I have opposed and continue to oppose the construction of a desalination plant. Not withstanding the fact that desalination is the most energy intensive and costly way to produce fresh water, I believe a truly sustainable and responsible water policy requires a complete commitment to existing alternatives. Regrettably, this is an option that our elected officials have ignored."

Micah Posner, transportation advocate

"I am opposed to the desal plant. Because the desal proposal is essentially a tax increase (via water fees) that faces significant and organized resistance, it is unlikely to be approved in 2014. As a practical matter, the city should immediately prepare and present alternative proposals that provide a modicum of drought security while allowing for water neutral infill development at the university and within the city."


Bruce Daniels

"Keeping an open mind about desalination until the public environmental review process is completed makes sense. Another option is imposing a drastic curtailment of water usage for at least 20 years, which could be more expensive and more restrictive than desalination. I support supplying voters with well-researched numbers and placing our options on the ballot."

Don Hoernschemeyer

"I support desalination as a supplemental water supply, which is needed because in several areas the water levels in underground aquifers are below sea level, and as a result, seawater could enter the aquifers, making them unusable. Many potential sources of water have been studied, but all were judged infeasible or inadequate. Although more options continue to be explored, the only one that we know for sure can supply the required water is desalination, and it is immune to uncertainties of weather."

Bruce Jaffe

"Desal is not the direction a rationale person would go if there are other alternatives because it is energy intensive and costly. However, because the two groundwater basins that are Soquel Creek Water District's only source of water were overpumped for years seawater is entering the basins and has arrived at the coast at some locations. It is wise to explore all approaches to heal the groundwater basins."

Dan Kriege

"Soquel Creek Water District's No. 1 priority is saving water. All of our water comes from groundwater and this source is under threat from saltwater intrusion. We commend our customers for reducing their use 20 percent over the last few years. However, without an additional water supply and to avoid saltwater intrusion, the district will need to reduce groundwater pumping at least an additional 30 percent. Public input and support are paramount."

Thomas LaHue

"My primary responsibility is to protect our groundwater supply from seawater intrusion, not for just the next few years, but for the next 50 or 100 years or longer. I support continuing the evaluation of desalination, which includes the public environmental review process. We have made a successful effort to get good, scientifically valid information about the state of our groundwater supply, and the evidence is extremely clear."

See Deconstructing Desal in Santa Cruz

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