Water Solution Evaluations are Underway After More Than Five Years of Community Effort
By Melanie Mow Schumacher
This is a historical time in our water district’s Community Water Plan history. We are at the cross roads of several water supply and groundwater recharge projects that will help protect our critically overdrafted groundwater aquifers from seawater contamination. For the past 15 years the District has been redistributing our well pumping away from the coast, requiring new construction to pay for conservation measures that save water, and we continue to incentivize water conservation through 14 different conservation rebates.
On the supplemental water supply side, we have been hard at work in the planning and evaluation process to secure a reliable new water supply to help protect and restore the Mid-County Groundwater basin. Here’s the latest news on the four supplemental water supply projects the District has been working on.
Pure Water Soquel
The feasibility study for the proposed Pure Water Soquel project to recharge the groundwater basin with advanced purified recycled water was accepted by the State Water Resources Control Board and the US Bureau of Reclamation earlier this year. Federal and State grant money was awarded to the District to prepare the feasibility study as well to help create our Learning and Educational Center and conduct a small tertiary pilot treatment plant evaluation at the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility.
Environmental analysis on the Pure Water Soquel project has been underway since 2016 and the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is expected to be released in late June 2018. It will include a 45-day comment period and public meeting in August. Check out our website at www.soquelcreekwater.org for additional information on the upcoming EIR.
River Water Transfers
The water quality study to evaluate blending river water into our long-standing groundwater-only infrastructure is nearing completion. Several different pipe materials (cut right out of our system) was sent to Virginia Tech University for jar testing where the pipe cuttings sat in treated water from the City of Santa Cruz to see if any pipe material corroded. The concluding report is anticipated to be presented to the Board in July.
Depending on the study outcome, if additional efforts are needed, and if the water flow in the City’s north coast stream sources is high enough next winter, the District may be able to receive a small amount of water from the City of Santa Cruz under an existing pilot water purchase agreement.
Winter stormwater running off large areas of land in the District may provide some water to recharge the aquifer. After the composition of the ground material was surveyed and mapped at several areas in the District, two sites were identified on Seascape Golf Course as being the most promising locations for capturing stormwater for recharge. Further analysis is underway to estimate the average volume of storm water that can be collected for recharge at these sites.
We are also preparing cost estimates for on-site soil boring collection, dry well design and development (including pretreatment), and environmental permitting requirements. This information, which will be presented to the Board in June, will help determine whether stormwater recharge projects in our service area are feasible and cost-effective relative to other supplemental water supply projects concurrently under evaluation.
The District has been following the proposed development of a desalination plant in Moss Landing. Deep Water Desal, which is a private company that is proposing this as a water solution for water purveyors in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties is currently developing an environmental impact report and addressing compliance regulations that would apply under the State’s Ocean Plan amendment. The EIR for this desalination project is anticipated to be released at the end of 2018.
The results of the seawater and freshwater groundwater mapping project that was done in May 2017 by the Mid-County Groundwater Agency is now available to view at midcountygroundwater.org. This study used remote sensing techniques to map the saltwater and freshwater interface offshore. The 3D data confirms that there is seawater intrusion in the aquifer all along the coastline throughout the Santa Cruz Mid-County region.
Salt water has not yet reached our wells, but it has affected private wells within our District area and recharge is essential to protect our basin. With the District’s wells at risk and to aid in creating a seawater barrier, the District’s Pure Water Soquel project is aimed at restoring groundwater levels to halt the intrusion from moving farther inland.
Community Water Plan Learning Center
At the end of March, the District opened its Community Water Plan Learning Center at 5180 Soquel Dr. It’s now open to the public from 10am-2pm every weekday. Private group presentations that include a well site visit are also available. Schedule with Vai Campbell at 841-475-8500 ext. 142
Stay informed about this exciting time in local water history and sign up for our e-newsletter at www.soquelcreekwater.org.
As always, if you have any questions about this month’s topic or anything else related to Soquel Creek Water District, feel free to contact Melanie Mow Schumacher at email@example.com or 831-475-8501 x153 and visit www.soquelcreekwater.org.