By Melanie Mow Schumacher
The Santa Cruz County community is a leader in implementing “The Three Rs” – reduce, reuse, recycle. Not only a plastic bag ban, but as of 2017 no plastic straws or stir sticks, and only compostable cups, lids, containers, and cutlery for County food-service establishments. Our community recognizes the importance of recycling and reducing single-use products that are otherwise discarded.
Water is another important resource that our community is beginning to embrace as a natural resource that can be beneficially reused and not wasted or discarded.
Did you know that currently about 6 – 8 million gallons a day of treated wastewater is disposed of in the Pacific Ocean? Or that Soquel Creek Water District (District) is evaluating a project called Pure Water Soquel project that would recapture that water, purify it, and then replenish the groundwater basin to prevent further seawater intrusion?
This month, our column focuses on how water is being – or can be – recycled and reused, both locally and beyond.
Water Recycling in Santa Cruz County
In Pajaro Valley and Scotts Valley, recycled water is being used to irrigate parks, schools, roadway medians, and farm fields. Pasatiempo Golf Course is moving toward recycled water to keep its fairways green. Also, the City of Santa Cruz recycles a small amount of water for uses at its wastewater treatment facility such as washing down equipment and on-site landscaping.
While this is a great start to water recycling, our community can do more.
Recycling and Purifying Water in Southern California
Many communities in California have incorporated recycled water as an important component in their water supply portfolios – embracing the concept of “one water” and using and reusing it. One example is Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) that produces 100 million gallons a day of recycled, purified water to replenish its groundwater basin and serve its community, including Disneyland. “We are so fortunate to have the GWRS — the world’s largest water purification project of its kind — right in our backyard,” says Frank Dela Vara, director of environmental affairs at the Disneyland Resort. “We wanted to take advantage of the possibility of recycling all of our water, so we embarked on a multiyear project that put the infrastructure in place to allow it to happen. Today, almost all the water used at the Resort is recycled in this manner.”
This is a great example of water reuse – but in the Santa Cruz Mid-County region, all of the water that we currently pump out of the ground is essentially a “single-use” product as it enters the sewer system and is eventually discarded into the ocean. We’re steadily moving toward changing that.
Latest News on Pure Water Soquel
The primary purposes of Pure Water Soquel are to recycle water, purify it to replenish the basin and prevent seawater intrusion/contamination from moving farther inland, and meet the state mandate of basin sustainability by 2040.
At its March 7th meeting the District Board of Directors voted to remove from consideration the use of untreated (raw) wastewater as a potential source of water for this project, and to focus the environmental evaluation on purifying treated secondary or tertiary treated water from the City of Santa Cruz. In addition to exploring an advanced purification facility site next to its headquarters office and the PG&E substation in Soquel, the District Board approved including the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility as another possible water purification site in its environmental review, and directed staff to further explore the merits of a few other sites that the District recently re-evaluated.
The draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Pure Water Soquel project is anticipated to be released in summer 2017. For more info: www.soquelcreek water.org/planning-our-water-future/purewatersoquel
Disposable plastic bags, straws, cups, containers, and cutlery are a thing of the past in Santa Cruz County. Soon, we could also see the end of “disposable” water!
As always, if you have any questions about this month’s topic, our Community Water Plan, or anything else related to Soquel Creek Water District, feel free to contact Melanie Mow Schumacher at melanies@soquelcreek water.org or 831-475-8501 x153 and visit www.soquelcreekwater.org
Photo: Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenishment System has produced over 200 billion gallons of purified water and has been in operation for 40 years. (photo credit: Orange County Water District)