The issues about water at the recent workshop on the Santa Margarita Groundwater Basin are serious. Although it is unlikely that a severe water shortage will occur in our lifetimes, it’s important to create sustainability for future generations.

Conservation is huge. For example, it was discussed that although UCSC doubled in size, it was able to actually lower water use by conservation and more efficient use of water. The situation is not as dire as it may seem.

But it was said that the areas that will see more growth would be confined to Scotts Valley, UCSC, and what is called the, “corridor”, area in Santa Cruz. UCSC is its own political entity, which the City is required to provide water for. The State mandates all areas to build more housing, with no thought of sustainability. There is a lack of space in the minds of government leaders about water that is filled with housing needs and trains. Can we please elect leaders with this intellectual capacity to focus on water as it is the horse to carry our cart?

In my opinion, the City and Scotts Valley, should build more housing to accommodate the current demand, but should stop there. The State should realize that growth should stop at some point for sustainability. It's obvious that there is no room for more Silicon Valley commuters.

And, UC should build a new campus in Redding, and other campuses should be expanded, like Merced.

After the last drought, the basin did recover. On the coast, the situation is worse. We could see a 10-year drought, and the result would be devastating. There will be serious saltwater intrusion, and the spigot on the inter-tie between SLV and the City will not be turned off. And, there is another concern, which arguably calls for more infrastructure improvements: fire. The fire season is much longer and severe due to climate change. What are we waiting for? It’s time to take charge.

The abandoned sand quarries are an ideal place to build reservoirs, and they can be built economically. We can sell more sand, and accept dump fees for dirt with a high level of clay. The “liner” will be engineered soil either clay or sand mixed with bentonite or lime treated.

The result will be an environmental improvement. Deer, bobcats, mountain lions, birds, etc. will love the additional water source. Or do you want to keep it fenced off for beetles and grasshoppers, which are thriving in the nearby hills? Do you want to be able to vote on this? Big fire? Having these reservoirs can be priceless. An engineered amount, about 5,000 acre feet per year, will seep into the ground water basin every year in a key area near streams for the fish. Stocked with fish, they will make great recreational areas.

Soquel Creek’s, “Pure Water”, plan is just plain cost ineffective. It will waste $150 million for a system than will become obsolete. That is because it cannot be expanded. For tens of million dollars less, the identical amount of water can be produced and distributed, but can be expanded to eventually recycle all of the water which is currently carrying pollutants out to the ocean.

Bill Smallman, P.E., Director, SLVWD

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