By Dr. Tom LaHue, President, Soquel Creek Water District Board of Directors
Welcome to 2022, from the Soquel Creek Water District! As your new President of the District’s Board of Directors, it’s my pleasure to offer a brief look at some of what we anticipate accomplishing in the upcoming year. We are confident of a bright future for the new year.
I want to talk about the two primary things the District will be focused on this year. One is our core service of efficiently providing clean, safe water to the community, every minute of every day, for the entire year. And, to ensure we can continue to accomplish that fundamental objective in the long term, we must also focus on a key sustainability objective, especially in light of climate change: to maintain our momentum and progress on the Pure Water Soquel Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion Prevention project.
Just last month we reached a remarkable milestone as we broke ground on the advanced water purification center, which is the very heart of Pure Water Soquel. Now, the three main elements of this project are moving forward - the water purification center (along with a new recycled water plant at the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility), the eight-mile conveyance pipeline system, and the seawater intrusion prevention (SWIP) wells.
We are well on the way to an operational system in 2023, when we can begin to purify recycled water that will recharge our groundwater and protect the future of our water supply. This is also a critical part of the Mid-County Groundwater Agency's Groundwater Sustainability Plan. As construction proceeds, we’ll continue seeking state and federal grants to help further offset the project’s costs to our customers.
So, this year brings a clear focus on continuing to move Pure Water Soquel forward. This includes overseeing the construction on these three, very complex and multifaceted elements. The SWIP wells are largely complete. The conveyance system is steadily making its way from the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility to the purification center, and to the SWIP wells. Our goals are to keep all of this construction moving ahead smoothly, to maintain the all-important partnerships that are facilitating this project, and to continue communicating with and providing project updates to our customers and the wider community affected by construction.
We have our work cut out for us this year, but given the wonderful progress already made, I have confidence in a successful year for Pure Water Soquel construction.
As that project makes its way toward completion, we never waver from our core services:
- We’ll keep up the pace of our pipeline replacement program – monitoring and inspecting the system and taking proactive measures to repair or replace pipelines that are worn out or damaged.
- We expect this year to finish up full implementation of our i-Meters throughout our service area and get more people using our WaterSmart online portal - giving customers more control and information for monitoring their water use, leak control, and billing. The use of WaterSmart allows customers to become aware of any leaks much more quickly, which saves water.
- We’ll continue providing our customers with other tools they need to continue their already-remarkable job of conserving water
- We want to ensure our customers are fully engaged in the District's programs, projects, and activities, by maintaining our communications and public outreach – a lot of that is still virtual, but when circumstances improve, we’ll be doing more and more in-person
- And we are committed to working toward the use of more (and eventually all) renewable energy by the District, with the eventual goal of achieving carbon neutrality in our operations.
The District very clearly recognizes the great challenges we all face with climate change and its extreme effects on our water supply. 2022 will likely bring more of the same kinds of issues as we’ve experienced in preceding years, and we need to be prepared.
The good news is that our future now clearly includes a sustainable, drought-proof water supply - Pure Water Soquel. And, I can assure you that the people who work here at the Soquel Creek Water District are committed to providing you with the safe, dependable water you and your families and businesses need, to the best of our best abilities, every day.
Dr. LaHue has served on the Board of Directors since 2003. He is also the District representative on the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency and serves on the District’s Water Resources Management and Infrastructure Committee. Dr. LaHue is a former member and vice-chair of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. He holds a BS in Biological Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from UC Davis, and a teaching credential from California State University, Monterey Bay. He continues to work as a veterinary surgeon and retired from teaching environmental science at Aptos High School in 2019 after 23 years of teaching.