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No, the project is not a wastewater treatment project. It is a groundwater replenishment and seawater intrusion prevention project that will create recycled water at the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility and then it will purify it at an advanced water purification facility at Chanticleer/Soquel Avenue. This is not a wastewater facility. The technology used at the purification facility will use reverse osmosis and UV-light and then the purified water will be piped to seawater intrusion prevention wells that have been strategically located in Capitola and Aptos to create a barrier underground so that seawater contamination doesn’t move further inland and contaminate drinking water wells.
Yes, using purified water for drinking is not new in the U.S. and has been in use for more than 40 years since the 1970s. Many other communities such as Monterey, San Diego, Pismo Beach, and Santa Clara in California, as well as Singapore, Australia, Texas, Virginia, and Colorado, are currently operating or evaluating this type of project - with many more in various stages of consideration or development. Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenishment Project has produced over 200 billion gallons of purified water to recharge its groundwater basin. Disneyland theme park proudly promotes its participation in this type of water recycling and purification program, boasting that, "…almost all the water used at the Resort is recycled in this manner."
Yes. The State of California, which regulates the treatment of groundwater and surface water, is also responsible for regulating the production of purified water. Regulations ensure water purveyors meet state and federal water quality standards, making certain the water is safe. This also includes testing and strict water quality requirements for removing constituents of emerging concern such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products. The National Water Research Institute (PDF) commissioned a third-party, technical panel to evaluate and review the District’s Pure Water Soquel Project and they concluded that the project was "plausible, feasible and protective of public health". Water quality sampling confirms purified water that undergoes this level of treatment has a much higher level of water quality than treated groundwater or surface water.
The groundwater basin on which we all depend on drinking water is shared by Soquel Creek Water District (SqCWD), City of Santa Cruz, Central Water District, and private wells. Representatives of each of these entities comprise the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency (MGA - see more information at www.midcountygroundwater.org). The State of California has officially designated this basin as critically overdrafted, and the MGA is responsible for bringing the basin into sustainability by 2040.
There are several municipal drinking water wells in the Live Oak community, which are operated and maintained by the City of Santa Cruz. As shown in the map below, Live Oak is part of the MGA basin area. These wells rely on that already-overdrafted groundwater basin to provide water for the people of Live Oak and the greater community. This water supply is at great risk, with seawater contamination detected in the groundwater aquifers near the well-field in the Live Oak/Pleasure Point area (in fact, seawater intrusion is occurring throughout the coastline from the Harbor to Pleasure Point/Live Oak to Aptos/La Selva Beach). From Pleasure Point to Aptos-Seascape-La Selva Beach area, the groundwater pumping can be optimized to redistribute pumping away from the coast and more inland. This redistribution, along with putting purified water into the ground through the seawater intrusion barrier wells, will raise protective groundwater levels.
Everyone living within the MGA area is affected by the groundwater overdraft and seawater intrusion problem. The Project is being developed as a means of replenishing the overdrafted groundwater aquifer, providing a barrier to seawater intrusion, and thereby protecting and sustaining the water supply for all within the MGA area.
The advanced water purification facility was built in the empty lot at Chanticleer Avenue (PDF) and Soquel Avenue, based upon the following factors: