Water Supply Advisory Committee Recommendations

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Santa Cruz has long faced challenges with the reliability of its water supply. Many solutions have been looked at over the past four decades. In October of 2013, the City Council decided to take a different approach to solving our water woes, and appointed a committee of residents representing diverse perspectives to take an exhaustive look at our water issues and ways to address them. Thus, the Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC) was born.

WSAC meeting, July 2015

The WSAC operated independently and employed a technical support team and an independent review panel. To visit the WSAC website, please click here. The committe had its own charter, was fully transparent and operated under California's open public meeting laws. Fourteen committee members represented local interests including the environment, business, education and the City's water commission. The group met for 18 months.

The public was encouraged to attend all WSAC meetings, and were additionally encouraged to attend many enrichment meetings that WSAC provided. To see the list of modeling and forecasting workshops and the accompanying materials, click here.

In December 2015, the City Council adopted WSAC's recommendations to secure the reliability of our water supply. Following are the recommendations adopted by the City Council:

Conservation – In addition to existing conservation programs, the WSAC recommends looking at new programs, such as increased rebates and better management of peak season demand. The goal of additional programs is to further reduce demand by 200 to 250 million gallons per year (mgy) by 2035, with a particular focus on producing savings during the peak season. 

Groundwater Storage: In-Lieu Water Exchanges and Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) – In normal years the Santa Cruz Water Department (SCWD) receives more rainfall than is needed to meet customer demand or can be stored in Loch Lomond Reservoir. Using In-Lieu Water Exchanges, available winter flows would be delivered to Soquel Creek Water District (SqCWD) and/or Scotts Valley Water District (SVWD) customers, thus enabling reduced pumping from regional aquifers and enabling the aquifer to passively rest and recharge.

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Beltz 12 Well and Water Treatment Facility, which could be used in water exchanges

Using ASR, available winter flows would be injected into aquifers through new and existing wells owned by the SCWD, SVWD and/or SqCWD, thereby actively recharging aquifers. A portion of the water delivered using In-Lieu or ASR would be effectively banked in the aquifers to be extracted and returned to SCWD when needed in future dry years.

Advanced Treated Recycled Water or Desalinated Water would be developed as a supplemental supply in the event the groundwater storage strategies described above prove insufficient to meet the Plan’s goals of cost-effectiveness, timeliness or yield.   If it is determined that recycled water cannot meet our needs, then desalinated seawater would be pursued.

To see the full report of Agreements and Recommendations, please click here.