Water Demand Offset Program

NOTICE: As of 2/8/2023, the Water Demand Offset Program is no longer in effect. 

On 2/7/2023, the District’s Board of Directors (Board) voted at a regular Board meeting to end the Water Demand Offset (WDO) Program. This award-winning program served as a safeguard against groundwater overdraft and seawater intrusion for the last 20 years by enabling water conservation to balance out increased water demand from new development within the District. Given the progress of sustainable groundwater management efforts in our region, customer support in significantly reducing water demand, and the current construction of Pure Water Soquel, our primary supplemental supply project, the Board decided to end the WDO Program. Over the next few weeks, District staff will be following up with all current new water service applicants to discuss next steps.  Additionally, District’s website will be updated accordingly in the coming weeks to reflect this change applicable to future new water service applicants.

Everything You Need to Know About Water Demand OffsetProgram Description & Purpose

Soquel Creek Water District receives 100% of its water from groundwater. The groundwater basin is currently in a state of overdraft. This condition has led to seawater intrusion detected at the coastline and, if left unresolved, will contaminate the groundwater wells and make them unusable to produce drinking water. The District is seeking a supplemental supply to address the problem of seawater intrusion and the Water Demand Offset (WDO) Program serves as a vital part of the District's conservation effort in the interim.

The WDO Program was implemented in 2003 and allows development to continue, conserve water, and to not further impact the over-drafted groundwater basin, leading to seawater intrusion. It requires new development to offset their projected water demand by funding new conservation or supply projects within the District.

The WDO Policy (Resolution Number 19-18 (PDF)) requires the following development projects to offset approximately two times the amount of water they are projected to use so that there is a "net positive impact" on the District's water supply:

  • Development projects requiring a new water service, excluding accessory dwelling units; and
  • Development projects with an existing water service that are undergoing a change in use that is expected to increase water demand, as determined using District established water use factors; and
  • Existing commercial customers that are adding new square footage.

Two Men and a Dog in Front of Water BuildingCalculating the Water Demand Offset Requirement

We will calculate the expected water demand of your development using two factors:

  • Type of development (e.g., single-family home, retail store, condo, etc.)
  • Size of development (e.g., number of units, lot size, square footage, etc.)

After the expected water demand is determined, an offset multiplier of 1.6 is applied so that the project's water demand is offset by a factor of approximately two. This final offset requirement represents the amount of water (in acre-feet) that the project must offset to help reduce water use overall.

For planning purposes, you can download the New Applicant Water Demand Offset Form (PDF) to see how the WDO requirement is calculated for your specific type of development. To assure the WDO requirement is properly calculated for a given project, the project applicant must first contact the District and provide a detailed description of the proposed development, including type and size of the project.

Existing development projects undergoing a change in use where water use is expected to increase (i.e. due to an increase in size, or a change from a lower water use type to a higher water use type) must calculate their fee amount the same way as for a new development but will receive credit for existing water use.

Go Green Program

Add green building components to your project and receive a lowered WDO requirement - You may reduce the WDO requirement for your project by going beyond the minimum water efficiency requirements for toilets, showerheads, turf, washing machines, etc.

WDO Green Credit Applications


Fulfilling Your Water Demand Offset Requirement

New or expanded developments are required to get a "Conditional Will Serve" letter from the District which states that water is available for the project and will be provided. The County of Santa Cruz and the City of Capitola will require this letter before they accept a building permit application.

A development project's total offset is paid in multiple installments. Offsets are sold at $55,000 per acre-foot.

  • A 10% deposit of the total WDO fee is due prior to the approval of Conditional Will Serve (additional deposits may be required upon extension of Conditional Will Serve past expiration).
  • The remaining 90% (or less if subsequent deposits were required) is due after obtaining a building permit or tentative map and prior to the approval of Unconditional Will Serve.

There is a limit of 10 acre-feet per project that can be purchased from the offset bank. If a project has more than 10 acre-feet of offset requirement, the remaining balance may be met through an offset generating project performed by the applicant for credit (after being approved by the Board). This option is not exclusive to large projects. Any project may choose to fulfill their offset requirement through self-earned offset credits. See the New Applicant Offset-Generating Project Proposal Application (PDF) to apply.