Nature Offers Lessons for Water Supply Resiliency

Nature Offers Lessons for Water Supply Resiliency

By Melanie Schumacher

Water Supply Resiliency Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comWhen it comes to the effective management of our groundwater resources, the Soquel Creek Water District’s goals are simple: keep our water supply safe, keep it reliable, and keep it sustainable. To be successful in this, we must be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances, build-in redundancies to our systems, and understand the variety of scenarios we may face, in order to plan effectively and ensure a resilient water supply for the generations to come.

Interestingly, we can look to pure biological systems for a framework that applies to our efforts to curtail seawater intrusion and ensure a safe, sustainable water supply. Biological systems (i.e., a rain forest, the ocean, ecosystems, habitats) are known as “complex adaptive systems” (CAS). They have evolved the processes of robustness and resilience, and maintain themselves even under extreme uncertainty and changing conditions. They thrive by continually adapting to the increasing complexity of their environment.

Water Supply Resiliency Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comThere are certain principles or characteristics that apply to these biological systems, some of which pertain to how the District is working to achieve resiliency and robustness in addressing the complexities of our own environment. These characteristics are redundancy, heterogeneity, modularity, adaptation, prudence, and embeddedness.

Our goal of a diversified water portfolio is a good example of redundancy, heterogeneity, and modularity. By potentially including groundwater replenishment using purified water, purchasing treated surface water, purchasing desalinated water, and developing decentralized groundwater recharge with storm water, we are better prepared to meet uncertainties. If one source is not available, we will be able to turn to another, and maintain our water supply for the community.

Water Supply Resiliency Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comAlong the same lines, but in terms of adaptation, the District has built-in flexibility to be able to respond to changing circumstances, either short- or long-term. This helps us deal with climate change and weather variability (or other circumstances) which may impact our available sources of water. For example, we cannot rely on the underground aquifer to be recharged by rain during a drought – so we must have the flexibility to utilize to other water supply sources.

The future is unknown, and so prudence is a characteristic that is part of the District’s overall approach. We are forward-thinking, and preparing for a variety of possible water-supply scenarios. We can’t see into the future, but we can try to identify and plan for future possibilities. And, the concept of embeddedness is relevant as the District, like biological systems, is part of a much larger system — we have critical partnerships with the City of Santa Cruz, with Santa Cruz County, the Central Water District, and others, extending to the State’s regulatory environment. All of these things are interconnected in a complex way and, to a great degree, interdependent.

Water Supply Resiliency Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comIn short, when looked at from a biological system viewpoint the District is well-positioned to take the critical measures necessary to ensure our water supply is robust, resilient, and sustainable.

To help address the critical overdraft and seawater intrusion conditions in the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin, the Soquel Creek Water District is considering the Pure Water Soquel: Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion Prevention Project.

The Project would involve the advanced purification of treated municipal wastewater to recharge the groundwater aquifers. The District has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to evaluate the potential environmental effects of the proposed Project.

Water Supply Resiliency Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comCommunity members can review and provide input on the Draft EIR during the official comment period: June 29 through August 13, 2018, in a variety of ways:

  • Access and review the Draft EIR at soquelcreekwater.org/purewatersoquel, at the Soquel Creek Water District (5180 Soquel Drive), or at one of seven libraries listed on the website.
  • Attend the public meeting (July 31, 2018 from 6-8pm, Twin Lakes Church, 2701 Cabrillo College Drive, Aptos) and submit a written or oral comment.
  • Mail written comments to: Pure Water Soquel Project CEQA 4041 Soquel Drive, Ste A-501, Soquel, CA 95073-3105
  • Email comments to: purewatersoquelceqa@esassoc.com

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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 melanies@soquelcreekwater.org or 831-475-8501 x153 and visit www.soquelcreekwater.org.

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