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State Water Board Unanimously Approves $50 Million Prop 1 State Grant for Pure Water Soquel
The Soquel Creek Water District (SCWD) is celebrating the recent unanimous approval of a $50 million Prop 1 State Grant that was approved by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) at their Nov. 19 meeting in Sacramento for the district’s Pure Water Soquel Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion Prevention Project. The Pure Water Soquel project is SCWD’s primary effort to create a sustainable alternative water supply to address the critically over-drafted Mid-County Groundwater Basin.
In addition to the $50 million grant the SWRCB also approved a $36 million loan for Pure Water Soquel through its State Seawater Intrusion Control Loan Program at a 1.3% interest rate. With both the grant and the low interest loan, SCWD is hopeful that future necessary water rate adjustments can be moderated for its ratepayers. The water district’s board of directors had voted earlier this year for substantial water rate increases that had drawn the ire of some of the district’s customers. The proposed rate increase would have raised the average residential bill by 41 percent over a five-year period of time.
The SWRCB grant is anticipated to save SCWD about half of the projected total $90 million construction cost for the new Pure Water Soquel advanced water purification facility and distribution system. The lower interest rate will save the district’s customers over $11 million in interest payments, compared to original projections. Additionally, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper, SCWD announced last month it had been short-listed for a $49 million loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. That low-interest loan is similarly estimated to save district customers $11 million in interest payments over a 30-year period, officials said.
“On behalf of the District and the community we serve, I want to thank the members of the State Water Resources Control Board for recognizing the value of the Pure Water Soquel Project in protecting our groundwater supply from seawater intrusion and providing our community with a safe, reliable, drought resistant water supply for future generations,” said Dr. Tom LaHue, president of SCWD’s Board of Directors. “Our staff worked diligently in applying for this substantial grant and their remarkable effort is to be commended. We also greatly appreciate the support of the people who live and work here and our staff, including local community members and organizations that collectively sent over 100 letters to the State Board supporting the Pure Water Soquel Project. This support means a lot and keeps us on track to move forward with the design and construction of this crucial project.”
The Pure Water Soquel project is proposed to take treated, recycled municipal wastewater and use advanced water treatment methods to produce 1,500 acre-feet of purified water annually. This purified water will then be sent to seawater intrusion prevention/recharge wells to replenish the critically over-drafted groundwater basin. The Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin, which is the sole source of supply for the district’s customers and other residents in the mid-county, is designated by the state as one of 21 basins throughout California that is critically over-drafted. Recharging the basin with purified, clean, safe water, will create and maintain a barrier against seawater contamination, and provide a safe, high-quality, reliable, and sustainable water supply for generations to come in the Santa Cruz Mid-County region.