In the News

Soquel Creek district to explore water transfers

By J.M. Brown, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 11/3/13

SANTA CRUZ -- While staying hitched to a joint seawater desalination proposal with Santa Cruz, Soquel Creek Water District leaders are quickly examining other options in case the city eventually abandons the controversial project.

Tuesday, the Board of Directors will hear from three community members with ideas on how to generate or save supply for the groundwater-based district, whose overpumped aquifer faces saltwater intrusion. The district has spent $5.4 million to date on the desal plan, which the city agreed last month to halt in order to allow an increasingly suspicious public to lead an exploration of alternatives.

"We already made that decision, that a regional desalination project is financially and time-wise the best option for us," said the district's general manager, Kim Adamson. "We are still pushing for that and we are doing the best we can to help the city move forward. But we have to be prepared with a backup."

District leaders invited John Ricker, the county's water resources director, to discuss his forthcoming report about the potential for transferring water between the Santa Cruz Water Department, the Soquel Creek district and other regional agencies.

Santa Cruz engineer Jerry Paul will explain his "Lochquifer" plan to drawn down the city's Loch Lomond Reservoir, which often spills in winter, to restore the district's aquifers and allow for more capacity when the rainy season hits.

The district will consider a consulting agreement with Paul, who as a member of Engineer for Water Alternatives was interested in creating a water-sharing proposal that will get regulatory approval.

"Objective, expert analysis is what is needed because people deserve to be given the straight information," he said.

Also Tuesday, Lompico Water District board member Bill Smallman will discuss recycled water. Adamson said the district's water rights attorney will discuss the challenges posed by the water-sharing alternatives.

On Oct. 8, the Santa Cruz City Council agreed to a plan announced by the city manager and mayor in August to launch public outreach on threats to city supply -- largely drought and fish habitat protection -- and alternatives to desalination.

In the absence of any clear timeline for the city's process, the Soquel Creek board began exploring its options. Directors heard a presentation in October from the creators of DeepWater Desal, a proposal to desalinate water taken from 100 feet offshore in Moss Landing, and in January will discuss water rationing.

Adamson said there is an urgency because it is unclear how much time exists before saltwater intrusion does permanent damage to the groundwater basin. Recently discovered intrusion in Live Oak wells has compounded concern.

"We know things are changing, but we don't have a good idea with where the interface is offshore," she said.

Tuesday's meeting will be in the Capitola City Council Chamber to provide for greater attendance. The meeting also will be recorded on Community TV of Santa Cruz County and played on channels 25 and 71.

Follow Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown at



WHAT: Discussion of select alternatives to seawater desalination

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Capitola City Council Chamber, 420 Capitola Ave.


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