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Desal Alternatives' Six Questions for Soquel Creek Water District
In advance of two upcoming Soquel Creek Water District meetings, Rick Longinotti of Desal Alternatives has six questions for the water district. On Tuesday, October 15 at 7pm, the Soquel Creek Water District Board will consider "Deep Water Desal" and "District-Only Desal." Also, on Tuesday, November 5th at 7pm, the Board will consider Water Transfers and the "Lochquifer" proposal. The meetings will be held at the Captola City Council Chamber, 420 Capitola Ave.
Rick Longinotti writes:
The Soquel Creek Water District is in a bind. To restore badly depleted groundwater, they put all their eggs in the desal basket with Santa Cruz. Now that strategy is “dead”, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Here are some questions that we think could be helpful to finding the way forward---before they opt for other desal schemes.
1. Why lift the 15% water curtailment restrictions that have been in place since the spring? Is this the time to send a message to customers that it’s OK to ease up on practicing conservation?
2. Will the District recognize that reducing pumping from private wells is a benefit to the District? The Draft EIR for the Desal project rejected the strategy of installing a satellite wastewater treatment plant that could provide irrigation water to Seascape Golf Course. This option could reduce private well pumping from the aquifer by 44 million gallons, according to the engineering study commissioned by the District. The Draft EIR acknowledged that “it could help overdraft conditions within the basin”. However, the District’s goal is limited to reducing pumping from its own wells---a goal so narrowly defined as to exclude this viable strategy to reduce aquifer overdraft.
3. Will the District revise its draconian estimate of needed reductions in demand?
The District has claimed that in the absence of desalination, the only way to achieve the District’s pumping reductions would be a 35% reduction in customer water use. The 35% reduction estimate is based on an assumption that water demand would rise between 2010 and 2015. That rise has not materialized. In reality, the District’s pumping reduction target is 28% below 2011 pumping levels. Achieving that pumping reduction target doesn’t solely depend on customer cutbacks. It could be achieved in part through water transfers and irrigation of Seascape Golf Course with recycled water. Will the District factor these strategies into their calculations?
4. The alleged 35% water consumption reductions estimated by the District translates into a maximum water allotment of 54 gallons a day per person. Reportedly, District Board members already consume well below that amount. Do Board Members believe their customers can match their own exemplary water use if given accurate information and support?
5. Will the District continue to evaluate desalination without acknowledging that the District’s commitment to “carbon neutrality” is an empty promise? Scientists evaluating the carbon offset claims of the desal Draft EIR have commented that the strategy of purchase of “carbon offsets” fails to meet criteria of being “real, verifiable, measurable, permanent, or additional.”
6. Will the District embrace a water pricing strategy that puts the marginal cost of new water supplies on the highest consumers of water? Water districts are allowed to pass the entire cost of new water supplies---or conservation measures---onto the highest-using customers. The rationale is that customers who already consume below the District’s target should not have to pay for conservation measures or new supplies to benefit higher users. On a similar theme, last November, James Workman from Aquajust offered the District a free pilot of his company’s system to allow customers to buy and sell their allotment of water. Will the District invite Workman to discuss this further?
 The Draft EIR rejected the satellite wastewater treatment strategy because “it would not reduce the potable water needs or pumping demands of the District.”