In the News


Getting the desal facts straight

Daniel F. Kriege
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 11/24/12

In a recent op-ed piece, Paul Gratz went into an orgy of unaccountability. It appears that those against the Santa Cruz desalination project work very hard to demonize the Santa Barbara desal plant with a great deal of misinformation.

Mr. Gratz said: "The Santa Barbara desal plant never delivered a single drop of water."

Fact one: The truth is, in a paper delivered on April 16, 2004, Steven Mack, then water resources manager of the city of Santa Barbara, delivered a paper saying that on March 4, 1990, until Jun. 3, 1992, more than 400 acre-feet (an acre-foot is approximately the water needed to cover a football field to the depth of one foot) of desal water was delivered directly to the city customers without significant incident. There were a number of complaints about the desal water in the city's water system. However, many of the complaints before any desal water was delivered and many came from customers in sections of the city that never had desal water delivered.

Mr. Gratz maintains that: "Santa Barbara lacks a river and stream watershed."

Fact two: the truth is, Santa Barbara is a major owner of Lake Cachuma Reservoir, a 190,000 acre-foot reservoir on the Santa Anez River.

Mr. Gratz said that the city developed less expensive water sources. Santa Barbara did sign a contract for state water, buying into a $400 million (1995 dollars) project for a maximum 3,300 acre feet per year. Last year, they only received 600 acre feet from the state project at a unit cost of $6,600 per acre-foot. Not inexpensive water.

Mr. Gratz said: "The 12 million gallons per day plant would not be used even if a drought occurred similar to the worst on record." According to Rebecca Bjork, current water resources manger for the city of Santa Barbara, the desal plant is still an integral part of the city's water supply system and would be activated in case of a serious drought. It would be likely during such a drought that little or no state water would be available. It is amazing that Mr. Gratz knows more about the city of Santa Barbara's water operations than Ms. Bjork, the city's water resources manager.

A newly created "fact" by Mr. Gratz is that the local desal system is going to cost $300 million. The truth is that the proposed Santa Cruz desal system is estimated to cost $115 million. This amount includes the entire desal system from the intake structure, through the plant, distribution system and energy offsets. The addition of $185 million is attributable to both the city of Santa Cruz and the Soquel Creek Water District capital improvement projects that may be built over the next 10 years or more. The need for these projects has absolutely nothing to do with the desal project, but they are necessary to maintain a viable water system. Mr Gratz's false effort in adding needed capital improvement costs to desal cost is just another way for him to try to confuse voters.

I concur that there is significant runoff water in Santa Cruz County to meet our collective needs. However, in order to utilize this water source, we would require one or more dams in our watershed. If one thinks building a desal plant is difficult, try building a dam in Santa Cruz County. It would be nearly impossible due to many environmental concerns.

Without honest facts, it is difficult for the public to make an informed decision. I encourage Santa Cruz Desal Alternative members to stick to the facts.

Daniel F. Kriege is a former chair of the Santa Cruz-Soquel Creek Water District Desal Task Force.


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