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Opinion

Sentinel wrong on call to abandon desal EIR

By Kim Adamson, Special to the Sentinel, 10/13/13

In the Oct. 10 editorial, "Money down the drain," the Sentinel Editorial Board took a distinctively nonregional view of a very regional water problem. In calling for the city of Santa Cruz to spend no more money to answer questions about a desal plant, the Sentinel ignores the fact that Soquel Creek Water District is a partner and has shared in the cost and the evaluation of this joint project that could provide regional benefits.

The district's problem may be clearer to understand since we rely 100 percent on an overdrafted groundwater basin that is unsustainable; however, attention needs to be drawn to the fact that the city also relies on groundwater for its supply during summertime. Seawater intrusion, a condition that allows seawater to enter and contaminate the groundwater supply, has been detected along our coastal monitoring network in the Seascape, La Selva Beach, and also Live Oak (near the city's well) areas. We need to reduce our groundwater reliance and limit pumping to prevent seawater intrusion from reaching our production wells. Once it reaches our drinking water wells or those used by others, it makes the water supply unusable.

The district is facing mandatory water curtailments of 35 percent over our already low water use for at least 20 years in the absence of a supplemental supply. These curtailments could hurt not only the economy of Mid-county, but they could have a drastic effect on the economies of the city and the county as well. Less tourism, hardships for local businesses, fewer jobs, and more social services -- these challenges don't confine themselves within jurisdictional boundaries.

In light of this, the district and the city proposed a regional solution to the water crisis we share. Through this lengthy and open process we released a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) evaluating desalination, as well as other alternatives. Individual citizens, organizations, and agencies took the time to educate themselves on the issue and submitted over 400 thoughtful comments and questions.

The district takes its responsibility to its citizens very seriously. We support this EIR process that promotes community engagement and civic involvement. We value those comments and feel that as long as there is a single person waiting for a response, we have an obligation to provide that response. Not ignore it.

Our commitment continues to be environmental stewardship and protecting the groundwater basin for current and future beneficial uses. We appreciate the working relationships we have with our local and regional partners, our customers, and the community at large on finding long-term solutions in terms of additional conservation as well as supplemental supply.

Let this not be a debate as to whether we should stop looking at desalination or jump to the conclusion that "desal is dead." Rather let's take this opportunity to think holistically on the importance of water and its impacts related to our quality of life, the environment, and the economy -- and respond to the questions and comments (that include desal and looking at other alternatives) -- so that we are all able to make informed choices and decisions when the time comes.

Kim Adamson is general manager of the Soquel Creek Water District.

 

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