As many of you know, the groundwater basin in the Santa Cruz Mid-County area is plagued with seawater intrusion at the coastline and its threat of moving further inland toward our drinking water wells is scarier than all the Halloween horror movies out there. However, the seawater intrusion horror has come to haunt most of the populated coastal regions of the world that rely on groundwater for drinking water.
Water conservation, redistribution of pumping, and maintaining our water demand offset program (where developers must offset their projected water use by 200% to ensure they maintain a zero impact on our water supply) are all part of our Community Water Plan (Plan) to reduce impacts to our groundwater supply. Another important part of our Plan is evaluating and securing new water supplies to increase reliability, diversification, and sustainability. Two of these supply options are surface water transfers and recycled purified water. This month, I'm pleased to share some exciting updates:
Pilot Surface Water Purchase of Excess Winter Water from the City of Santa Cruz: A small amount of treated water from the City will be served to an isolated area of Soquel and Capitola as part of a pilot test to see how the surface water mixes with the groundwater and monitor for any water-quality changes. This test will transfer water through the City-District intertie near the intersection of Soquel Drive and 41st Avenue The test is not about the quantity of water we purchase (the amount is limited due to water rights, environmental permitting, and the availability by Santa Cruz), but rather water quality and will go through the end of November 2018 through April 2019. Postcards to all residents, homeowners, and businesses affected during this pilot water purchase will be sent by the District and a dedicated webpage on our District Website has been created. The webpage has an interactive map where someone can type in their address to determine if they will be in the isolated zone during testing. Plus, it will include a robust set of questions and answers to address any concerns you may have. The District anticipates another year of purchasing winter water through an existing agreement with the City that goes through 2020; any long-term agreement after that will have to go through additional environmental review, permitting, design (if additional infrastructure is needed to receive a larger volume of water), and a better understanding on the cost to purchase the treated surface water (which City officials have noted will increase following the pilot project). For more information, visit the Surface Water Pilot page.
Pilot Seawater Intrusion Prevention/ Recharge Well: The District received a $2 million dollar grant from the State Water Resources Control Board earlier this year. Part of those funds is going toward constructing a pilot well to test the recharge capacity and rate of water that can be effectively stored into the basin to serve as replenishment and to create a barrier against seawater intrusion. The District is currently undergoing environmental review (anticipated to be completed in early November) and developing the basis of design that will be used to construct, develop, and test this well that will be located off Cabrillo College Drive. If the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) is adopted and the project approved, the pilot well is projected to be drilled and developed in January to February 2019 with testing following and completed by April 2019. All on-site testing will use District's treated groundwater (not recycled purified water). Additional testing will be done, and will also be funded through the grant, on evaluating the geochemical characterization of the aquifer units in this area. After testing, the pilot well will be capped and could be used as a permanent seawater intrusion prevention/recharge well if the District goes forward with its proposed Pure Water Soquel project. More information is available at the Pilot Recharge Well page.
Response to Comments for Pure Water Soquel Project's Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR): The Draft EIR for the District's Pure Water Soquel: Advanced Water Purification for Groundwater Replenishment project is part of the District's environmental evaluation of taking secondary treated effluent from the City of Santa Cruz's Wastewater Treatment facility, purifying it through multiple treatment steps, and then putting the water into the ground through recharge wells for replenishment and creation of a seawater intrusion barrier well. Approximately 100 comments were received when the draft EIR was released this summer and the District's consultant has been reviewing the comments, preparing responses, and determining if any additional assessment/analysis needs to be performed. It is anticipated that a response to comments and final EIR will be available within the next two months.
As always, if you have any questions about this month's topic or anything else related to Soquel Creek Water District, feel free to email Melanie Mow Schumacher or call 831-475-8501, ext. 153.