In the News

Santa Cruz panel narrows conservation steps ahead of environmental report on desal

By J.M. Brown
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 5/7/13

SANTA CRUZ -- Ahead of the city's publication of an environmental analysis for a proposed seawater desalination plant, the Santa Cruz Water Commission on Monday approved a list of measures to be pursued as part of a revised 10-year conservation plan.

The ability to prove to the City Council and voters that they are being aggressive with conservation will be a key factor in water officials winning approval for the desalting facility shared with Soquel Creek Water District. The environmental report -- which also will review conservation -- will be released May 13 after the council and district's board review the evaluation process at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Even before the city received 63 conservation ideas from the public in April, the staff already had evaluated nearly 100 other suggestions from a consultant. Staff ultimately recommended the top 25 to the commission, leaving room to explore a few other options.

The highest-rated options were rebates for high-efficiency clothes washers for residential and commercial customers, and mandated installation for new developments. Rebates for ultra high-efficiency toilets, turf-to-landscape conversions and outdoor water surveys and audits for residential and large landscape customers also topped the list.

But Live Oak resident Scott McGilvray, a Water Department watchdog, bemoaned the lack of public participation in winnowing down the list.

"I expect to be heard in a nonconfrontational manner and talk over what does it mean to have a meaningful impact," he said.

Commission Chairman Andy Schiffrin suggested water officials meet with citizens whose ideas didn't make the report.

"When there is as much concern in the community for the city to have a meaningful conservation program as we've heard, it makes sense to provide as much information to people as possible," he said.

Monday, the commission also heard results of a survey designed to estimate the potential for more conservation, a report that eventually will come to the council. A consultant conducted surveys of single-family residential customers, apartment complexes, hotels, schools and medical centers.

Conservation Manager Toby Goddard said the greatest potential in single-family homes -- about 35 percent -- is in replacing clothes washers and dishwashers with high-efficiency appliances. More than 90 percent of homes had efficient shower heads and toilets.

Goddard said medical offices have the lowest overall efficiency on toilets at 68 percent while the city's two hospitals, Dominican and Sutter, have the lowest overall efficiency for shower heads at 63 percent.

The commission also heard from a consultant who will study an array of financial costs related to desalination, including the impact on ratepayers if the supply project isn't built. The plan will evaluate a range of costs based on population growth and mandated cutbacks on stream flow for fish.


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