In the News

Soquel Creek Water District leaders talk about supply options

By Shanna McCord
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 10/16/13

CAPITOLA -- Sparse rain coupled with salty seawater eating at the water supply that feeds homes and businesses from Capitola to La Selva Beach has Soquel Creek Water District leaders seriously weighing alternative supplies.

District leaders said one possible solution to the ongoing shortage saga is to join a regional multimillion dollar desalination plant proposed for Moss Landing that would also be used in the Monterey and Salinas areas.

At the district's board meeting Tuesday, representatives from DeepWater Desal described their idea to pull water from a deep-water canyon in the Monterey Bay a mile offshore of Moss Landing and turn it into fresh water.

DeepWater Desal CEO Brent Constantz said a regional desalination plant that pumps water from deep depths would be friendlier to the environment and provide cheaper water than smaller, individual desal plants.

The DeepWater plant would be 10 times bigger than Santa Cruz's proposed desal plant, which has been sidelined in the face of community opposition.

"Surface water is full of life," Constantz said. "We go way below the zone where there's no life. It's an environmentally sensible way to draw water out of the ocean."

The proposal calls for warming the 100-feet-deep water by sending it through a new regional data center, where it would cool off equipment before the salt is stripped to make drinking water.

Constantz said the plant could lead to the installation of dark fiber cabling for the Internet.

Board member Bruce Daniels said he was "disappointed" in the DeepWater Desal presentation.

He was critical of a slide from Constantz that showed the "symbiotic relationships" between the desal plant and factors such as "carbon sequestration" and "aquaculture."

"There's been no talk of cost, no timeline," Daniels. "All I've seen is buzz word compliant. All I want is water."

Constantz told the Soquel Creek board that his desal plant does not depend on its participation.

Taj Dufour, the district's engineering manager, briefly talked about the option of building a district-only desal plant.

Dufour said a plant that could be used by other water districts in Santa Cruz County would be preferable.

The longtime shortage dilemma for Soquel Creek is prompting several public discussions over the next few months that would end in a plan that would be voted on by the district's customers.

Also under consideration is year-round mandatory rationing.

The district plans to begin monthly billing in 2014 to help customers better understand how much water they're using on a daily basis, General Manager Kim Adamson said.

Soquel Creek is looking for a fall-back plan in the event that the city of Santa Cruz ditches its desalination plant proposal, which has been suspended due to intense opposition from the community.

Santa Cruz has hit pause on desalination to allow a deeper, community based examination of alternatives.

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