Groundwater Replenishment, Seawater Intrusion Project Approved by Soquel Creek Water District

By on January 4, 2019

The Soquel Creek Water District (SCWD) Board of Directors recently certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (Final EIR) for its proposed Pure Water Soquel Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion Prevention Project (Project). The Dec. 18 board of directors meeting saw the unanimous approval of the Project plan following staff presentations, board discussion, and public input by more than 25 attendees.

“The water supply challenges we face are significant and can only be addressed with thoughtful, determined, and forward-looking decision-making. Certification of the Final EIR and approval of the Project are major milestones for the District and for the people who live, work, and have families here — among the most significant decisions the Board has made,” said Tom LaHue, President of the Soquel Creek Water District Board of Directors. “With the Board’s affirmative actions, we’re not only committed to ensuring water reliability for the water customers we serve today and in the generations to come — but we are also committed to protecting our environment and the shared groundwater resource of Santa Cruz Mid-County.”

The Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin (SCMCGB) is in a state of critical overdraft with seawater intrusion and contamination occurring at the coastline. The SCMCGB is currently SCWD’s only source of drinking water for its community; it also provides groundwater to other municipal agencies as well as private well owners.

Also approved at the recent SCWD board meeting were several actions to further the implementation of the Project including the prioritization of project development and siting for: tertiary treatment at the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility (SCWWTF) and the advanced water purification (AWP) treatment at the Chanticleer Site; coordination with the city of Santa Cruz on the potential to site the full advanced water purification treatment at the SCWWTF provided no delay occurs to the project’s schedule; and constructing seawater intrusion prevention/recharge wells at Twin Lakes Church, Monterey Ave. and Willowbrook Lane.

The Project’s Draft EIR was released last June. It required a 45-day public review period and, following that, the Final EIR was prepared. The Final EIR was prepared, including responses to the public comments tht were received and provided revisions, updates, and clarifications relating to those comments. The Final EIR was made available on December 7.

The SCMCGB has been exploring ways to protect and increase the sustainability of the groundwater supply including the development of the SCWD’s Community Water Plan. This plan has been developed through significant public engagement and input processes and outlines various tools aimed at managing the water shortage including water conservation, surface water transfers, use of desalinated water and/or storm water, and the Pure Water Soquel project.

The Project is slated to promote beneficial reuse by reducing by 25 percent the discharge of treated wastewater the community disposes into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The Project will implement proven water purification technology to clean recycled water to produce safe, high-quality drinking water. Numerous projects – now operational or being built across the US and abroad — rely on advanced water purification facilities for their communities, including Orange County and Los Angeles County. Currently neighboring Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and Monterey One Water’s Pure Water Monterey’s projects are currently being built. Additionally, the Project will develop a supplemental supply of purified water to replenish the overdrafted groundwater aquifers and create a seawater intrusion barrier.

SCWD has already received a planning grant through the California Prop 1 Groundwater Grant Program and the US Bureau of Reclamation’s Title XVI Program. The district will now seek other state and federal contributions to help fund the development of the Project.

RSCWD General Manager Ron Duncan summed up the situation saying, “Regional collaboration continues to demonstrate that agencies can work together on solving our complex water challenges. As we develop and implement Pure Water Soquel, our agency will be better positioned to help address the State’s mandate of basin sustainability by 2040. We appreciate the collaboration with the City and County of Santa Cruz, the City of Capitola, environmental, business, and service organizations, community leaders, and especially our customers. Together, we are standing strong in protecting our drinking water from seawater contamination.”

The Final EIR, related documents, and information about the environmental review process can be found on the SSWD’s website at: www.soquelcreekwater.org/purewatersoquel.