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Capitola to discuss water cutbacks at Esplanade Park Thursday
Public works director offers five options for council to consider

By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 9/11/14

CAPITOLA — The city of Capitola, which two years ago was the fifth-largest customer in the Soquel Creek Water District, reports it has cut water consumption by 32 percent this year and is looking at further cutbacks at Esplanade Park, where an outdoor shower for beach-goers to wash off sand has come under criticism.

Steve Jesberg, the city's public works director, who analyzed water use in the beach-front park found the upper lawn of the park behind the bandstand uses four times as much water as the patch of grass by the shower.

The 2,600-square-foot upper lawn uses about 2,430 gallons of water, the 680-square-foot grass by the shower, 630 gallons, and the 1,800-square-foot grassy area along the beach, 1,500 gallons, he calculated.

The shower water could suffice for irrigation despite "moderately high salt levels" and provide "a public relations benefit," according to Jesberg. However the quantity is enough for only the 680-square-foot patch and would save a mere $250 a year.

Jesberg has developed five options for the City Council, which meets at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 420 Capitola Ave.

• Recycle: Retrofit irrigation to draw from shower water and augment with potable water with a cost of $20,000.

• Remove: Replace all lawns with artificial grass or porous pavers. The cost for beach lawn alone is $10,000.

• Combination: Recycle shower water for just the grass by the shower at a cost of $10,000 to $15,000.

• Status quo: The costs of a change may not be justified since shower water use is less than expected.

• Redesign: Re-landscape the park to reduce water use and improve bandstand views, which are somewhat blocked by myoporum trees.

Jesberg added that the lawns in the lower park must be replaced every five to 10 years because of heavy foot traffic and sand buildup.

To conserve water this year, the city converted the turf at Soquel Creek Park into a "water wise' landscape, installed low-flow valves and shower heads on the Esplanade showers, reduced turf at Jade Street Park and changed some landscaping City Hall, where colorful roses greet visitors.

A key strategy was to reduce irrigation near playing fields, resulting in use of 3.1 million gallons from January through July, compared to 4.5 million gallons in that time period last year, according to Jesberg's statistics.

Before that, the city removed of all turf from street median, converted to water-saving flush valves in city facilities, and in 2008, installed water-conserving fixtures and waterless urinals at the Esplanade bathrooms.

Most of Capitola's water comes from the Soquel Creek Water District with the city of Santa Cruz supplying a tiny quantity.

For those wondering why the village sidewalks get power-washed three times a year, Jesberg said it's done for sanitary reasons since spilled food stains and can cause odors.

That is recycled water, he noted.

Soquel Creek Water District's 10 largest customers

The City of Capitola was among the top 10 customers of the Soquel Creek Water District in 2011-12.

1. Capitola Shores, 280 condos: 28,835 units of water, $193,257

2. Seascape Resort: 25,372 units of water, $156,888

3. County of Santa Cruz: 13,026 units of water, $81,544

4. Capitola Knolls, 164 condos: 12,346 units of water, $80,912

5. City of Capitola: 10,836 units of water, $64,789

6. Villas of Capitola, 172 condos: 10,836 units of water, $60,388

7. Woodside Terrace, 92 condos: 9,825 units of water, $56,372

8. Soquel Knolls, 100 condos: 9,523 units of water $59,910

9. Pajaro Valley Unified School District, 4 schools: 9,494 units of water, $56,232

10. State of California: 8,608 units of water, $52,265

Subtotal: 138,701 units of water, $862,557

Total: 1,620,206 units of water, $12,560,996

Source: Soquel Creek Water District June 2013 refinancing

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