It’s been two years since the Santa Cruz City Council approved recommendations
made by the Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC) to help make our water
supply secure and reliable. This second Annual Report will bring you up to speed
on the status of those recommendations.
First a quick recap. The WSAC – a group of 14 residents who were appointed by
the City Council in 2014 – met for 18 months to complete a deep technical dive
into the City’s water system. The WSAC identified the water supply gap that
needs to be filled, and made several recommendations for potential solutions.
The WSAC finished their work by making the following recommendations
to City Council:
• Increase water conservation
• Explore sharing water with other water districts
• Store excess winter water in underground aquifers
• Utilize purified recycled water
• Utilize desalinated water to meet the supply gap
The WSAC also recommended that the City study the feasibility of all five
recommendations at the same time, so that by 2020 a fully informed decision
can be made on which recommendation(s) to implement.
That brings us to 2018. What’s happened since our last report?
Rosemary Menard, Water Director, Santa Cruz Water Department
Customer water use continued to trend lower in 2017,
despite abundant rainfall.
In 2017, we:
• Implemented a new water rate structure that
• Doubled the number of workshops and trainings
we provided for the public and partnered with
• Improved the large landscape water budget
program by providing hourly consumption
• Designed and implemented a pilot project to assess
the feasibility of Advanced Metering Infrastructure
for large landscapes, parks and school sites
• Produced and distributed an award-winning
Know Your Water Service guidebook to encourage
efficient water use
• Reached a milestone of 10,000 plumbing retrofits
on resale properties since our retrofit program
began in 2003
• Became the first utility in the nation to earn
Platinum Status for water conservation program
operations and management from the Alliance
for Water Efficiency
Aquifer Storage and Recovery
In 2017, we made significant progress on Aquifer Storage
and Recovery (ASR), completing critical analyses to determine
the technical feasibility, as well as a study to identify potential
sites for future wells to inject and recover water that would be
stored in regional aquifers.
The most significant finding of the feasibility analyses is that
there does not appear to be a “fatal flaw,” on paper, with
DID YOU KNOW?
The same well
can be used to both inject
surface water into an aquifer,
and also to withdraw
from it? Not so with
What kinds of things could prevent ASR? For example, negative
results from a study of whether adding surface water to
groundwater produces poor water quality. Or, whether
injection and recovery rates will be within the parameters
needed to cost-effectively build and operate the project.
So far, none of these fatal flaws have been identified.
Up to an acre of land can be required for new wells, pumps,
treatment and maintenance. Also, the well must be located
where water can be injected into the water-bearing strata
of an aquifer, and new wells can’t be placed too close to
Water Exchange/Water Sharing
In 2017, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed with the
Scotts Valley Water District, San Lorenzo Valley Water District
and Santa Cruz County to evaluate potential opportunities for
conjunctive use of surface and groundwater resources.
Ninety-five percent of Santa Cruz’s water supply is surface
water (creeks and rivers) and Soquel Creek and Scotts Valley
water supplies are 100% groundwater from aquifers. San
Lorenzo Valley water supply is a combination of surface
water and groundwater. The chemistry of surface water and
groundwater is different, and may require different treatment.
In 2017, in-depth analyses began to study the compatibility of
using surface water in a groundwater system, and vice versa.
In particular, the studies are looking at the potential for the
release of lead, copper or iron that may exist in household
plumbing, which could be triggered by switching source
water sources. Results of the analysis will determine the future
course for water sharing with other districts.
DID YOU KNOW?
means to use groundwater and
surface water synergistically.
Recycled Water and Desal
During an 18-month study that began in 2016, we looked at more than
40 options for using advanced-treated wastewater from the City’s
Wastewater Treatment Facility as a potential supplemental water supply.
We also updated the existing desalination project assumptions and cost
estimates so that we could evaluate both back-up options – recycled water
and desalination – with current information.
RECYCLED WATER: DID YOU KNOW?
The City of Santa Cruz Wastewater
Treatment Facility serves
and discharges ±six million gallons
of treated wastewater into
the bay every day.
Treated recycled water has many uses, and we looked at several of
them during the past year. From irrigation, to being pumped up to and
blended with water stored in the Loch Lomond Reservoir, to being
treated and injected into aquifers, the results of the analyses have
created a rich data source for comparison of all of the alternatives
for a final recommendation.
DESAL: DID YOU KNOW?
The Ocean Plan
was amended in 2015 with a specific
approach to design and operate new
and expanded desalination facilities
that minimize ocean impacts.
Using the existing desalination project framework, we incorporated
comments made in the 2013 project Environmental Impact Report,
along with new environmental regulations and direction from the
WSAC, to update the desalination project scope. Based on the amount
of water the WSAC determined is needed to fill our supply gap during
dry years, the updated scope reflects a bigger desal project as well as
adjusted intake and pump station locations.
The Water Commission meets on the first Monday
of every month and the public is encouraged to
attend. Meetings are at 7 pm and are typically held
in City Council Chambers at 809 Center Street.
confirm the location and preview the agenda.
A joint meeting of the Water Commission and the City
Council will be held on April 10 to update the Council
on progress made on the WSAC recommendations. The
meeting will be at 7 pm in the City Council Chambers –
809 Center Street.
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