In the News


Measure P: Best use of initiative process

By Rick Longinotti
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 10/28/12

The legal effect of Measure P is simple. If P passes, the city of Santa Cruz cannot authorize a desalination project without an affirmative vote of the people. Measure P puts this legal requirement in the City Charter so that it cannot be revoked by a simple majority of City Council members at some future time.

Measure P was placed on the ballot by citizens concerned about the energy intensity of desalination (12 times that of existing water supplies -- Santa Cruz Sentinel, Sept. 28); the high cost ("Expect water bills to skyrocket," Santa Cruz Sentinel, Sept. 28); and the impact on marine life (7 million gallons of seawater per day cleansed of plankton, krill and fish larvae).

The citizens who placed Measure P on the ballot did so because their voices calling for investigation and funding of alternatives to desalination have not been heeded. Those voices include water professionals such as James Bentley, who was superintendent of water production for the city of Santa Cruz for 14 years until his retirement in 2008. Bentley writes, "We should optimize existing resources for regional benefit before we consider desalination."

In a guest editorial in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on April 25, 2010, Bentley supports a Santa Cruz County plan for regional water sharing whereby Santa Cruz would share river water during plentiful winter months with the water districts of Scotts Valley and Soquel Creek, which are 100 percent dependent on groundwater pumping. Santa Cruz would receive water back from these districts during drought years.

Bentley writes, "This is water capacity in excess of the amounts proposed to be provided by the desalination plan, sharing of which would provide an opportunity for a true conjunctive use arrangement."

Gerald Weber is a retired lecturer at UCSC, and expert on the hydrogeology of Santa Cruz County. He writes, "Studies show it would be cheaper and more environmentally sound to store water underground during the rainy season, so it can be used in drought years." These professionals, as well as John McGuire, former associate director of the Santa Cruz Water Department, have all endorsed Measure P.

The Sentinel editorial opposing Measure P misconstrues the motivations of Measure P supporters, saying Measure P "is another tactic in the long-running battle to keep Santa Cruz from having enough water to provide for its customers." On the contrary, we have extensively researched conservation and conjunctive use alternatives that other communities already have in place. In summer 2011, Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives, Surfrider Foundation, the Ecological Landscaping Association, and WILPF submitted an 18-page set of recommendations for increasing the drought security of Santa Cruz. That report features articles by Bentley on "Optimizing existing resources" and by Sherry Bryan of Ecology Action and Sarah Damron of Surfrider Foundation on "Enhancing conservation and public education." (The report is online at The Water Department response to this impressive piece of community input was underwhelming: one paragraph in a Water Commission agenda packet.

Citizens' initiative Measure P represents the best use of the initiative process -- as a recourse when government is reluctant to respond to the concerns of citizens. Yes on P.

Rick Longinotti is the founder of SC Desal Alternatives and co-author of Measure P.


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