By Melanie Mow Schumacher, P.E., Special Projects-Communications Manager
January brought the Soquel Creek Water District some very exciting news from the California State Water Resources Control Board! We’ve been awarded a grant under the state’s Proposition 1 funding program for up to $2 million dollars to further evaluate our proposed groundwater replenishment project, Pure Water Soquel.
The California Proposition 1 Water Bond authorized $800 million to fund planning and implementation projects to prevent and clean up contamination of groundwater that serves as a source of drinking water. Since groundwater is currently the District’s only source of drinking water, preventing seawater intrusion from moving further inland is a top priority. Seawater contamination is already detected in our coastal monitoring wells at both ends of the District (Pleasure Point area and Aptos/La Selva Beach area). The groundwater basin in the Santa Cruz Mid-County region is identified as one of 21 “critically overdrafted” groundwater supplies in California, and is mandated to be sustainable by 2040.
“The award of this grant shows the state’s recognition and support of the crucial work we’re doing to protect the groundwater basin,” said Dr. Bruce Daniels, President of the Soquel Creek Water District Board of Directors. “We are mindful of making the most efficient use of ratepayers’ money by leveraging it with this state funding, toward ensuring a reliable, safe, and sustainable drinking water supply.”
The proposed Pure Water Soquel Project is aimed at preventing seawater from contaminating the groundwater that serves as the local drinking water supply. It would do this by using purified, recycled water to replenish the groundwater basin, and create a clean water “barrier” against further seawater intrusion. This type of project incorporates a “One Water” approach by reusing water in a sustainable, full circle manner.
It would take already-treated wastewater that is being discharged into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and purify it using a three-step advanced treatment process (micro-filtration, reverses osmosis, and UV-light/advanced oxidation). The end result is high-quality, purified water that meets or exceeds all state and federal drinking water standards, which can be used for replenishing the groundwater basin.
This process is successfully being used in several places in California, elsewhere in the U.S., and abroad. Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenishment Project is one of the most widely known, with over 2 billion gallons of water purified and used to recharge their groundwater. That’s part of the reason why Disneyland can proudly state on their website, “We are so fortunate to have the Groundwater Replenishment System right in our backyard… Today, almost all of the water used at the Resort is recycled in this manner.”
The District received wide support when it submitted an application for this grant, including the City of Capitola, County of Santa Cruz, City of Santa Cruz Public Works Department, Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency, Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, Assemblymember Mark Stone, and State Senator William W. Monning.
The District was awarded the maximum amount, $2 million dollars for planning, which will help fund the District’s technical and environmental evaluations for the Pure Water Soquel Project. Currently, work includes preparation of a draft environmental impact report (scheduled for release this summer), and furthering some treatment process testing. The District is also planning on conducting geotechnical and hydrologic investigations to better understand the capacity of the potential recharge wells.
As part of the District’s Community Water Plan, the Pure Water Soquel project is being considered as a supply option to diversify our water resources portfolio and provide water supply sustainability and resiliency. Other supply options under consideration include desalination, river water transfers, and stormwater capture. The District Board is currently considering all of these options, which are in different stages of evaluation and have varying quantities and estimated costs.
The proposed Pure Water Soquel Project cost is estimated to be $65-$70 million dollars, which includes treatment, pipelines, and recharge wells. Should the District move forward with this project, it could apply for Implementation Program funding under the Proposition 1 Water Bond grant program for up to $50 million for qualifying components, and additional funding through other state and federal loans and/or grants.
For more information on the project, visit soquelcreekwater.org/purewatersoquel.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 831-475-8501 x153 and visit www.soquelcreekwater.org.