This is Santa Cruz’ first look at alternatives to a desalination plant.

The desalination plant proposed for Santa Cruz could produce 900 million gallons a year, at a total cost of $115 million, and operating costs of $4,938 per million gallons. The information on the WSAC website is hard to find. However, there are some dynamite water supply ideas. Here are the 4 big ones:

  1. Ranney collectors, idea submitted by Terry McKinney. This idea is huge because it allows us to take water from the San Lorenzo river in winter storms when there is turbidity in the water. At present, we cannot take water during these turbid times, and need to draw down the Loch Lomond reservoir. Ranney collectors, according to Mr. McKinney, the manager of the Graham Hill Water treatment plant, could supply 1.8 billion gallons, or more. The total capital cost estimate is $7.5 million, operating cost of $170/ Million gallons, much cheaper than a desalination plant.
  2.  Lochquiver, Jerry Paul’s name for his collection of water supply proposals. The best of Jerry’s suggestions is to use the water in Loch Lomond to supply groundwater dependent districts, such as Soquel Creek Water District and Scotts Valley with Loch water in the winter, thus allowing their aquifers to recharge. A bonus that can come with Lochquiver is to combine the plan with the Ranney Collectors. If we can do that then we can recharge the aquifers all year long. This idea could add 6000 Acre Feet, or 2 Billion gallons/ year. The cost of this upgrade is the Ranney collectors and improved piping to move the water around, probably less than $25 Million total cost.
  3. Conservation(1): The Santa Cruz Master conservation plan predicts that improvements in fixtures and appliances, primarily ultra low flow toilets and clothes washers can save 500 million gallons per year. Will this take 30 years? Can it be accelerated?
  4. Conservation (2): Sue Holt’s submittal asks how much the Santa Cruz 61% water rate increase will reduce demand? The answer is a lot, and not measured yet. And what if we added conservation rates for businesses? Why only charge tiered rates to resident? More reduction in water use, I think.
  5.  Recycled water can become a resource. Dana Ripley, of Ripley Pacific has suggested that Reclaimed water can be used to water the 1300 Acres of brussel sprouts on the North Coast between Santa Cruz and Davenport. Scott McGilvray has suggested that recycled water can be sent down the Rail right of way to the South county to help the strawberry and lettuce growers.
  •  850 million gallons of water for the North Coast growers who presently use well water and Santa Cruz water from the North coast streams.
  • 1 Billion gallons to the Watsonville farmers who are over drafting their ground water basin by that amount every year.
  • Cost is near $50 million, $25 for the treatment plant, and $25 for the pipelines up and down the rail right of way. Check out Terry McKinney’s idea submittal for recycled water. He shows that much of the the pipeline needed to distribute the water to Santa Cruz city is already in place.

There are other good ideas, but smaller in scope, so not likely to equal the water that a desalination plant would provide. Nevertheless, they should be considered as smart upgrades to our current water practices. Among them:

a. Gray water for showers and laundry to gardens.

b. Small scale storm water capture and recharge of local aquifers.

c. Incentives to change landscape to drought resistant.

d. Water access charges for new development to fund projects that save the community water.

e. Rain catchment. Etc.

If we can implement some or all of these proposed ideas, we will be able to recharge our aquifers and have water running for us and for our fish all year long. Please join us this Thursday for these water solutions at the Civic Auditorium.