In the News


'Lochquifer' plan makes sense

By Steve Newman, Special to the Sentinel, 10/13/13

The Soquel Creek Water District and the city of Santa Cruz Water Department face two water problems: Soquel gets its water from underground sources (aquifers). Soquel users are pumping more water than is replenished naturally by rain. The aquifer level falls, and that allows seawater to flow in and permanently pollute the aquifer. Santa Cruz's problem is not having enough reserve water for a multi-year drought.

A proposed joint solution is known as "Lochquifer Plan," developed by local engineer Jerry Paul. We have what the plan requires -- the Loch Lomond Reservoir, the aquifers, and lots of winter rain in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The full plan will be publicly available at

It's a regional water-transfer plan. Water gets transferred from Santa Cruz to Soquel most of the year, and water comes back to Santa Cruz from Soquel during the occasional several-year-long drought.

The Lochquifer Plan

The Loch Lomond Reservoir is very under-utilized. Being the sole source of water for Santa Cruz during the occasional multi-year drought, it is kept nearly full all the time. This means there's not much room left to capture a really "big drink" of river water during the normal winter rains.

To capture more winter water, the Lochquifer Plan would send half of Loch Lomond's water to Soquel every year -- twice the amount of water that the district would have received from the desal plant. This way the Loch becomes half-empty and can collect and store a big amount of new water each winter. Using all this extra water will require building some new infrastructure: pipelines and a treatment plant.

Saving the Aquifers

The extra water gained after drawing the Loch down would be sent to the Soquel Creek Water District customers so they wouldn't need to pump so much from their wells. With so much less pumping from the aquifers, Soquel's aquifers could be fully restored in as soon as seven years. In another four years or so, the Lochquifer plan could do the same for Scotts Valley's threatened aquifer. Once the aquifers are restored, the deep draw-downs of the Loch could be discontinued.

Providing Drought Insurance

When completely restored, the aquifers will become a "reservoir" over five times the size of Loch Lomond! As the aquifers build up, they become water banks, quickly assuming the job of long-term drought protection for the participating water districts. During extended drought years, the needed water would be pumped from the aquifers. This is regional water sharing: Water from the Loch fills the aquifers. The aquifers provide water during droughts.

That's the win-win nature of the Lochquifer Plan:

1. The aquifers get restored quickly so they will be usable forever.

2. The entire Mid-County area enjoys the vast aquifers as its new "reservoir" for long droughts.

3. The Lochquifer Plan can be implemented in stages. A useful amount of surplus water could be sent to Soquel as soon as this winter.

Let's ask our water districts to fund a detailed study of the Lochquifer Plan.

Steve Newman has lived in Santa Cruz 28 years. He holds degrees in physics from Columbia University, and worked 13 years as an engineer for Beta Technology, a local manufacturer of industrial pumps.


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