By Melanie Mow Schumacher
The Soquel Creek Water District’s New Year’s resolution for 2019 — and beyond — is recharge and replenishment of our groundwater supply. How do we plan to keep this resolution? With several exciting projects and strategies that are part of our Community Water Plan, and its overarching aim of preventing seawater intrusion into the community’s water supply.
By achieving and maintaining protective levels for our groundwater basin, we will be able to hold back seawater, which has already been detected in a number of monitoring wells on the coastline.
Our work over the next several years includes furthering development of purified water to recharge the underground aquifer, augmenting winter water demand by purchasing a small amount of treated surface water, when available, from the City of Santa Cruz, and of course always continuing to promote water conservation.
Through numerous studies, data collection since the 1980s, and hydrological modeling, the District has determined that our water shortfall, or deficit, is about 1,500 acre-feet per year (1 acre foot of water = 325,851 gallons; so our water supply deficit is nearly half-a-billion gallons annually).
We are resolved this new year and in future years to make real progress in solving our water challenge and securing a sustainable water future – and at the same time, we should all share a new year’s wish for good rainfall this winter!
The New Year’s Goals and New Activities
Pilot Testing Groundwater Recharge: As part of a State Grant under the Prop 1 Groundwater Program, a pilot test well will be constructed in early 2019 to gather important data about recharge and extraction rates related to replenishing the groundwater supply.
The pilot well, on the property of Twin Lakes Church, will also provide for the collection of soil and groundwater samples for analysis of the aquifer’s condition.
Pure Water Soquel, a groundwater replenishment and seawater intrusion prevention project that the District has been evaluating since 2015, will purify 1,500 acre-feet of water a year (or 1.3 million gallons a day) of secondary treated wastewater, bringing its quality up to drinking water standards.
This project will recycle approximately 25% of the treated water that currently just gets discharged out to Monterey Bay. That purified water will then be piped to three recharge wells in the Aptos area, to bring the groundwater levels up to protective elevations/levels. This will also create a freshwater barrier in the aquifer to protect our mid-District area, where our most productive wells are located.
On December 18, the Board certified the Final Environmental Impact Report and approved the Project and prioritized project development and siting for: tertiary treatment at the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility (SCWWTF) and the advanced water purification (AWP) treatment at the Chanticleer Site; while also coordinating with the City of Santa Cruz on the potential to site the full advanced water purification treatment at the SCWWTF provided no delay occurs to project schedule; and recharge wells at Twin Lakes Church, Monterey Avenue, and Willowbrook Lane.
Treated surface water purchase from the City of Santa Cruz. The District and the City of Santa Cruz recently opened the valve to allow treated river water to supply customers in a small portion of the western part of the District. This is the first phase of a pilot project to determine the feasibility of larger-scale use of treated surface water. During this pilot project, the wells that supply that test area will be rested, to allow for natural recharge to take place.
While helpful, this possible supplemental supply of water is limited since surface water is dependent on rainfall and is not drought-proof; and, Santa Cruz is still in a “proof of concept” phase with their evaluation of aquifer storage and recovery to meet their own shortfall of water during drought times.
What can you do in your own home to help recharge the aquifer? It’s always best to reduce and minimize impermeable paving in your yard to allow water to “pass through,” and to slow, spread, and sink rainwater into the ground.
You can also collect rainwater and store that moisture to use in your garden. Here are some websites for tips on rainwater harvesting, and other things you can do in our garden or landscaping to save water and support the aquifer:
- www.watersavingtips.org (click on Resources and Yard and Garden Resources)
- www.santacruz.watersavingplants.com (click on Resources)
- www.green-gardener.org (click on About and Rainwater Harvesting)
The District even has a rebate to help pay for you to install a rainwater downspout re-direct — this will re-direct and slow the flow of rainwater that runs off of your roof, helping promote infiltration and groundwater recharge.
Visit soquelcreekwater.org/conserving-water and click on Rebates.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and vibrant New Year! May we join together in being groundwater guardians in 2019 to protect and preserve our precious water supply.