By Rachél Lather, President, Soquel Creek Water District Board of Directors
Another year is soon coming to a close – already! We’re in the midst of the holiday rush, but as we approach the new year I want to briefly pause, and take a look back at a very successful 2021 for the Soquel Creek Water District. Together with you – the community – as our partners for a reliable water supply, we can all be very proud about the progress and accomplishments the District has made during the last 12 months.
Of course, the world is still dealing with the pandemic; but with the progress that’s been made in battling Covid-19, especially in the Bay Area, many of us have returned to some semblance of normalcy in our everyday work lives. If 2020 was a struggle (and it was!), then 2021 in many ways brought about a rededication to our goals and objectives, a strengthened attention to our core services, and a laser-like focus on the District’s efforts toward long-term water supply resiliency and reliability.
I want to point to one particular accomplishment for 2021 that really has the most far-reaching impact for our community – we started construction in earnest on our Pure Water Soquel Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion Prevention Project (PWS). Eight miles of pipelines are being laid as we speak, to connect the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility with the very-soon-to-break-ground Advanced Water Purification Center, and from that facility to three seawater intrusion prevention wells (which were also substantially completed during 2021). Getting underway with construction is a monumental accomplishment, especially for a relatively small district that is taking on the gigantic task of replenishing the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin – our only source of drinking water.
Related to PWS is another remarkable achievement, as part of the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Management Agency. Earlier this year the state approved that Agency’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan - one of the first two sustainability plans in the state to be approved by last summer under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires groundwater basin sustainability by 2040. Pure Water Soquel is a big part of that Plan, and with this approval the roadmap is set towards groundwater sustainability for the future.
Another 2021 accomplishment – one that is very public-facing – is the unveiling of a brand-new District website that is streamlined, cleaner, easier to navigate, and designed to better serve our customers. As many people in our tech-savvy community know, putting together a new website can be a major undertaking, especially for a public agency. Ours has an entirely new look-and-feel, countless major improvements, and a great deal of improved functionality – it’s your one-stop-shop for everything about your water!
Here are just a few of the District’s other achievements made during 2021:
- Replaced a major primary water pipeline in Soquel – part of our core service of maintaining and improving the reliability of water delivery to your homes and businesses.
- Upgraded 90% of our customers’ water meters to Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) – providing for hourly water consumption information and a new customer portal, giving you access to the latest technology for managing your water use and billing.
- Created the Vaidehi Campbell Williams Memorial Garden - honoring a beloved staff member who we lost in the tragic fire aboard a diving boat off the Channel Islands, which also took 33 other lives.
- Adopted the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan - a crucial long-range planning document that assesses current water demand, projects future demand over a minimum 20-year planning horizon, and identifies a mix of water resources and conservation efforts to meet future demand.
- Received award for financial reporting - the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association recognizes the quality of the District’s comprehensive annual financial report.
- Repaired a significant water main break in the area of Maplethorpe and Victory Lane
- Completed a very positive Water Quality Report – our Consumer Confidence/Annual Water Quality Report shows results of our groundwater testing for 181 different constituents; all tests showed that our water is in compliance with state and federal drinking water health standards.
And in the middle of all these accomplishments, let’s not lose sight of the fact that 2021 is also the District’s 60th birthday! It was 60 years ago on October 19 that the Soquel Creek (County) Water District Board of Directors met for the first time, in the old Soquel Firehouse.
As I reach the end of my term as the Board President, I am so proud and gratified to be part of this mature, 60-year-old agency, with the knowledge that we are going strong, we are making a difference in people’s lives every single day, and we are absolutely positioned to provide a safe and reliable water supply for another 60 years, and beyond!
Ms. Lather has served on the Board of Directors since 2016 and was sworn in as President of the Board on December 15, 2020, for 2021. A resident of Aptos and a civil engineer with more than 40 years of experience, Ms. Lather serves on the Board's Water Resources Management and Infrastructure Committee, and as an alternate on the Public Outreach Committee and the Finance and Administrative Services Committee and is also the Santa Cruz LAFCO Vice-Chair.