Make Your Voice Heard – A Water Convention Wrap Up
Last Thursday’s Water Supply Convention at the Civic was a historic event in the history of Santa Cruz, and really the history of civic engagement. With the entire community as an audience, and 400 people in direct attendance, concerned citizens of all types presented their ideas for how to best address our local water crisis. And in an effort to involve the entire Santa Cruz community, each and every one of the proposals was posted on Civinomics where anyone with an internet connection can view, comment on, and evaluate the ideas by going to civ.io/santacruzwater. Rarely has there been such a concerted effort to involve the community in both the generation and the evaluation of ideas towards solving such a critical local challenge.
The event on Thursday ran as a sort of science fair, one that was up and running for a full ten hours, from 11 am to 9 pm, in order to be as accessible to the general public as possible (no need to miss that Giants game!). With some 20 members of the Santa Cruz community setting up displays on floor of the Civic, the event was an immersive educational environment where attendees could take a tour of a myriad of potential water solutions. Contrary to the saying, “Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting,” the atmosphere was civil, genuine, and refreshingly optimistic. After months of dire news about the state’s exceptional drought, this event proved that there are many solutions out there, a lot of them mutually compatible.
So just what were some of these ideas that were presented at the conference (and that you can view yourself right now on civ.io/santacruzwater)
As a taste, a lot of compelling ideas came out of the Santa Cruz Water Department itself – Water Production Superintendent Terry McKinney along with the assistance of other enthusiastic water department staff presented three compelling proposals: Rannery Collectors, Membrane Filtration for the San Lorenzo River, and Auxiliary Wells.
Briefly, Rannery Collectors (price tag $2.5 – 4 million) would allow the City to draw additional water out of creeks during the wet season by tapping into the sandy creek channel below the surface. A Membrane Filtration Plant for the San Lorenzo River (price tag $40 million) would allow the City to treat and use more of the turbid winter flow. And Auxiliary Wells (price tag $1.3 million) would inject small amounts of water into the ends of the water distribution system (a.k.a. pipes). The Water Department staff currently has to flush the water from the edges of the system every six days or so because it gets “stale” and may build up an excess of treatment byproducts. Putting new water in at the edge of the system would prevent this, and save staff time on a routine task.
The Water Department also dusted off the plans for a Zayante Creek Dam – although in the storage category they have tough competition from JoBen Bevirt’s proposal to use Liddell Quarry for 8,000 acre feet of storage, and Jerry Paul’s proposal to re-inject water into the existing aquifers.
Recycled Water was also a recurring theme – the Water Department presented four options themselves for different recycled water pipe configurations and distribution. Although, best presented in the category would likely go to Dana Ripley and his proposal to swap recycled water for groundwater rights with North Coast farmers. Ripley argues that it’s State law for farmers to use recycled water when available and Watsonville and Monterey both already sell recycled water to farmers growing organic crops.
Finally for now, the need to create a county-wide water authority was proposed by both Bill Smallman, Director of the Lompico Water District, and Desal Alternatives. While we aren’t likely to see the dissolution of individual water districts anytime soon, a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) could allow the departments to start working more closely together.
The event featured many more compelling and well thought out ideas for solving the water crisis, and you can view them all at civ.io/santacruzwater. Once online you can use the proposal menu displayed in the left hand column to navigate in between initiatives. Each has 100 word summary making it much easier to quickly grasp. Each proposal can be rated on a 1 to 5 scale based upon 4 criteria, effectiveness, practicability, environmental benefits/impacts and local economic effects, using the stars in the top right hand corner.
The online evaluation period will last until November 4th, at which point the Water Supply Advisory Committee will receive all of the data for consideration. Come spring the committee will submit their formal recommendations to the City Council, who will then make a formal decision as to how to move forward.
This is your chance. If you care about our local water supply, if you care about this community, if you care about the next frontier of civic participation – go online and make your voice heard.