In the News


Santa Cruz water supply

A.J. Elliott
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 11/24/12

The Santa Cruz City Council and the Sentinel articles concerning our water supply problem have not provided an engineering trade study addressing the problem.

A trade study provides at least two alternatives to solving a problem with associated cost, risk and schedule. It includes defining the problem, validating the problem, identifying alternatives, and providing an evaluation of each alternative based on rational validated selection criteria. A trade study is routinely considered part of any major investment in infrastructure, and one allegedly costing up to $300 million is major.

For our water problem, there are three alternatives. These include:

1. Desalination.

2. Some combination of water conservation; fixing pipes leaking treated water; limiting growth; water reclamation (retrofitting to use gray water); increased water storage (some combination of increasing the capacity of Loch Lomond; underground water storage in Scotts Valley, Soquel and North Coast aquifers; and new reservoirs, including Zayante, Waterman Gap, Kings Creek, Felton Quarry, and Olympia Quarry); using recycled water in exchange for the potable water currently given away to farmers on the North Coast; etc.

3. Do nothing.

In the past, the city and other water districts have paid for engineering studies addressing all or portions of these alternatives; however, the reports are not readily accessible nor have they been used as a basis for a clear and current trade study, especially with respect to the rising cost of the desal alternative. I am sure that the city water department has competent engineering staff that could contribute to a trade study, with references to past and ongoing engineering studies and white papers. The city could also solicit free help from local engineers and spend some money for outside technical consultants.

The Santa Cruz City Council should direct that a trade study be done and the results, with references, all made easily available to the public, on a website, so we all can make a science-based decision on solving our water problem as opposed to an opinion-based decision based on interviews and propaganda.

A.J. Elliott is a registered civil engineer with 45 years of working in the industry. He lives in Santa Cruz.


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