MidCounty Groundwater Agency Meeting – July 19, 2018

Notes from Becky Steinbruner

Greetings, All,

Gary, thank you for giving the presentation last night. You did a great job. Jerry, thank you also for giving your presentation… I appreciated that you began with the fact that water transfers was the WSAC’s priority recommended project. That fit well with Rosemary Menard’s description of WSAC’s work and John Ricker’s history review.

Community TV recorded the presentations. Bruce Tanner, a friend of mine, was there and video recorded the MGA Board meeting that preceded the joint meeting. By the way, Tom LaHue is now the Chairman of the MGA Board.

I  got to the meeting about mid-way into John Ricker’s overview. I have an extra printout copy of Rosemary’s “City of Santa Cruz Water Supply Augmentation Strategy” I will share at our next meeting. She began with the WSAC and that the problem is inadequate water storage.  The 20-year water demand forecast for the City is flat to declining, due to new plumbing codes that require new construction use only water-saving fixtures, and that all properties sold must meet those water-saving codes but still, the projected peak-season supply gap in a multiple-year drought would be 1.2 billion gallons/year.

She then described briefly the broad nature of the nearly 100 alternative supply solutions that the WSAC examined.  She listed the recommendations generally, with additional conservation efforts being first, then “Explore the feasibility of winter water harvest to create drought supply of 3 billion gallons to provide for two years of back to back drought.” and mentioned there had been conversations with neighboring water agencies.  She also touched upon desal and recycled water.

The next section of her presentation was about implementing WSAC recommendations and began with In Lieu Transfers and Exchanges for passive recharge, wherein the ground water is ‘passively’ stored based on districts not pumping their wells. She had demands for each water agency: (noting that current demands are now lower than 2014 / 2015 levels).

SqCWD  2.3 mg/d
SVWD    1.3 mg/d
SLVWD  0.9 mg/d
Total      4.5 mg/d

She then discussed Active Recharge, storing stormwater flows in regional aquifers for future use during drought.  The key working assumptions for evaluating winter water harvest/groundwater storage options is that there needs to be an 80% recovery rate of stored water for withdrawal later. Also “All available flows within existing water rights, in excess of fish flow requirements and Santa Cruz demands may be diverted for aquifer fill year-round.”  She talked a bit about the fish issues and the Felton diversion dam. All water for in lieu and ASR must be treated to drinking water standards. It would, at current capacities, take three years to fill the Basin.

She then discussed that the real problem is multiple year drought, with a three-year drought causing big problems. She talked a bit about current climate change models predicting longer periods of drought, followed by a year of flashy storm runoff, and again, talked about storage issues. She said that due to predicted prolonged drought periods, in lieu alone is not a reliable solution to storage deficiencies.

She then discussed the current status of in-lieu, stating that the water exchange with Soquel will begin this winter, but due to fish requirements, must be kept at 300AF under the existing agreement BUT THAT CAN BE CHANGED WITH CEQA PROCESS and modeling updates.

She discussed the current status of Aquifer Storage and Recovery, that Phase I technical analyses showed no fatal flaws with any scenario examined. Existing Beltz Wells are being considered for pilot testing this winter for active injection.

Rosemary then summarized the status of two recycled water projects: internal treatment plant needs, a bulk water station and irrigation a La Barranca Park, but these are not expected to produce much of a water demand offset value.

The City is conducting a feasibility update on desal with a focus on costs, timeliness and changed conditions since 2013 (State now requires subsurface intakes, if  feasible).  This report will be coming up for review before the Water Advisory Commission NEXT MONTH.   The City will not make a decision until 2020, but timeliness of implementation will likely be an issue to get done by 2025, due to new regulations.

Ron Duncan then gave a presentation for Soquel Creek Water District, giving out bottles of recycled drinking water to members in the audience who correctly answered his questions about local supply sources.  He made the case for how much the area needs to have PureWater Soquel Project, stating “This is about risk mitigation.”  He gave glowing reports of all the grant money awarded and to be awarded. He talked about the Community Water Plan, including Deep Water Desal and the high cost of that water. He mentioned that the District partnered with the RCD and Andy Fisher on a stormwater recharge project at Seascape Golf Course, but it only will mean 30-40 AF/Y but helps.

Rosemary Menard then gave a brief presentation on the “Process Funnel” for the Groundwater Sustainability Plan elements.

Then Tom LaHue asked how many members of the community wanted to make a presentation (except I could not hear him well enough to understand that is what he was asking). I had intended to give a brief presentation about Andy Fisher’s good work mapping the County and rating areas for recharge capabilities.

Gary went first…good job.
Jerry went after…lots of information, Jerry!

Then there was discussion with the Board and Advisory Committee.

Richard Casale asked about the risks to various projects from natural disaster and/or sabotage.

John Bargetto asked about the DeepWater Desal feasibility if 15 miles of pipe have to be pulled. He asked about the actual location of the PureWater Soquel facility… Ron Duncan did not know which of the three sites under consideration will be selected.  John then asked about the concepts stated in Gary’s and Jerry’s presentations. Rosemary admitted (quite complimentarily) that the treatment plant is under-capacity to really implement lochquifer and upgrades will be difficult. She admitted, at least as much as I could hear, that Jerry’s and Gary’s ideas are good ones but it will take the City a few years to make treatment plant changes to accommodate the water transfers wholescale.

Jan Karwin talked about the PureWater Soquel EIR and that Alternative #2 was to have been done concurrently.  She also mentioned that in the document, both the City and Soquel Creek Water District guarantee water availability into the future with the implementation of this project (she thought that was rather far-reaching for a project with so many unknowns).

I asked about why Laguna Creek has been eliminated from the North Coast stream pilot water transfer project this winter.  Rosemary said it was because of the required fish flows and she had to guarantee there would be no more than the agreed-upon 300AF going to Soquel. I got rushed by Tom LaHue but got to ask two more questions:

1.) Will Soquel Creek allow a public vote on PureWater Soquel?  Ron Duncan said “NO,” it will be a Board decision.
2.) How will the District verify the state-required 60-day holding times? Ron Duncan said there is a model for that and can be verified by adding a (bromine?) tracer at injection source and mapped using monitoring wells.

That was all I was allowed to ask before the meeting closed. All my fliers about the two EIR Study Sessions that I had left on the table outside in the foyer were gone. I asked Darcy about them…she had boxed them up and hauled them to her car during the meeting. She retrieved them for me when I asked. I also handed out the County recharge map that Andy Fisher developed to as many of the Advisory Committee members as I could.