Alternatives Considered

In addition to the environmental analysis of the proposed project, the  Draft EIR must evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives to the proposed project. These alternatives could include those previously considered by the City of Santa Cruz or Soquel Creek Water District, those raised during the scoping process, and others.

Steps in considering alternatives:

  1. Is it feasible or potentially feasible?
    • Under CEQA, “feasible” means “capable of being accomplished in a successful manner within a reasonable period of time, taking into account economic, environmental, social, and technological factors.”

  2. Would it avoid avoid or substantially lessen significant impacts?
    • In comparison of the proposed scwd2 Regional Desalination Project, does the alternative reduce or avoid significiant impacts?
  3. Would it meet most of the basic project objectives?
    • In comparison of the scwd2 Regional Desalination Project, does the alternative meet the project objectives listed below?

City and District Objectives

  • Provide for a supplemental water supply in a timely manner that meets the agencies’ water supply program objectives for both near-term and long-term needs
  • Allow the City to reduce its surface water withdrawals and provide operational flexibility as more water is required in local streams and rivers to protect threatened and endangered species
  • Provide the District with a supplemental water supply to protect the groundwater basin and reduce the potential for seawater intrusion
  • Protect the local economy and community from the effects of an uncertain water supply due to the consequences of drought or contamination of the groundwater by seawater intrusion
  • Plan for climate change and be consistent with the City’s Climate Adaptation Plan
  • Provide a supplemental water supply that:
    • Has regional benefits and promotes efficient use of resources
    • Is readily available, drought-proof, avoids risk and/or uncertainty
    • Effectively meets future changed conditions and ensures accommodation of planned growth
    • Avoids or minimizes significant environmental impacts
    • Does not increase greenhouse gas emissions
    • Is relatively cost-effective

Alternatives not considered in detail in the Draft EIR

Several alternatives were considered for the proposed project or were reviewed as a result of scoping comments received, but were eliminated from further analysis. These included alternatives such as: more groundwater, reservoirs, off-stream diversion, reclamation/recycled water, and District-only desalination within the District’s service area. Many of these alternatives were considered by the City during preparation of the IWP and District during preparation of the IRP. In general these alternatives were eliminated because they did not meet most of the proposed project objectives, were found to be infeasible, and/or did not substantially lessen or avoid the significant environmental effects of the proposed project.

 A discussion of the eliminated alternatives and the reasons for eliminating them from further consideration is included in the Draft EIR, SECTION 8.2.

Alternatives considered in detail in the Draft EIR

Eight alternatives to the proposed project are evaluated in detail in the Draft EIR, including the required “No Project Alternative.” The alternatives include:

CITY NO PROJECT: The City would continue its current water supply practices with its current facilities and the proposed project would not be constructed. The City’s existing Water Shortage Contingency Plan would be implemented to meet water supply shortages.

DISTRICT NO PROJECT: The District would continue to rely solely on groundwater from the Purisima and Aromas Red Sands aquifers in the Soquel-Aptos area and the proposed project would not be constructed. The District’s existing Water Shortage Contingency Plan would be implemented to meet water supply shortages as needed.

CITY-ONLY DESALINATION: A desalination plant and related facilities would be constructed and operated only by the City.

DISTRICT-ONLY DESALINATION: A desalination plant and related facilities would be constructed and operated only by the District.

DESALINATION PLUS DIRECT POTABLE REUSE (DPR) PILOT: This alternative includes the proposed project along with a small direct potable reuse (DPR) pilot system at the proposed desalination plant site. An opportunity exists to study the feasibility of incorporating DPR into the long-term water supply portfolios of the City and District. Should regulations change in the future to allow for DPR, the seawater desalination plant could potentially be transitioned to a DPR facility.

REGIONAL RECYCLED WATER FOR IRRIGATION: This alternative considers the regional use of recycled water for landscape irrigation to reduce the demand on the City and District potable water supply systems.

CITY PACKAGE: A variety of actions and programs are considered that could potentially reduce the City’s demand for water or have other beneficial effects on the water supply system. The actions and programs proposed under this alternative include: additional conservation and demand management; water-neutral development; new reservoir operations policy; and water exchanges with neighboring districts.

DISTRICT PACKAGE: A number of measures and programs are considered that could potentially reduce the District’s water supply shortfall allowing the District to achieve its recovery pumping goal so that the basin can recover. The actions and programs under this alternative include: mandatory water rationing programs and water exchanges with the City.

A comparison table highlights the attributes of each alternative including the cost, ability to meet the proposed project objectives, amount of potable water produced, and ability to reduce the significant impacts of the proposed project.  See SECTION 8.3 of the Draft EIR for further information.

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