This is not the time to change directions on water.
More specifically, the work being done over the past several years in MidCounty by the Soquel Creek Water District needs to continue to completion.
Which is why it’s important for voters in the sprawling district that encompasses an area from Capitola to La Selva Beach to re-elect three directors on the Nov. 8 ballot: Rachél Lather, Bruce Jaffe and Carla Chistensen.
We, the Sentinel Editorial Board, don’t weigh in with recommendations on every water and fire board election in the county, mainly because we’re unable to meet with, and assess, candidates from the many boards seeking office.
But in the case of Soquel Creek, we have met with district officials, and have been watching the ongoing PureWater project – and support its objectives to head off ever-advancing seawater intrusion.
This is a project supported by other county water agencies, by city councils, by environmental organizations as well as water experts who have been sounding the alarm for years about the impacts of incessant droughts, and a dropping water table.
The ongoing $145 million “Pure Water Soquel” project will treat wastewater that will undergo further purification before it is injected back underground. The objective is to provide a buffer against seawater contamination, while raising groundwater levels that are depleted after decades of overuse – and increase water supply.
The project includes the construction of eight miles of water pipelines to transport reclaimed water underground through the cities of Santa Cruz, Live Oak and Capitola, as well as an education center that will be on site at the purification plant on Chanticleer Avenue. It’s been a major effort, with residents in Santa Cruz, Live Oak, Soquel, Capitola and Aptos experiencing traffic delays and detours during the installation of the pipeline.
The 12,700-square-foot Chanticleer facility is the “heart” of the project, meant to not only secure fresh water for the Mid-County Groundwater Basin, but also to serve as a resource for water education across the county.
The facility, estimated to be up and running before the end of 2023, is expected to receive roughly 1.3 million of the 8 million gallons of treated wastewater that is processed on a daily basis by the Santa Cruz
Wastewater Treatment Facility with the capacity to eventually expand and provide 2.6 million gallons per day.
The treated water will travel through the underground water pipeline through the cities of Santa Cruz and Capitola, until it arrives at the Chanticleer Pure Water facility. It will then undergo an intensive four step purification process before it gets injected into three seawater intrusion prevention wells in the Soquel area serving as a buffer against the seeping salt water.
The Pure Water Project has received more than $80 million in federal and state grants – including approximately $21 million in August in additional federal funding – for its $145 million price tag.
The project, one of 30 similar ones underway statewide, is scheduled to be fully online by 2024. Santa Cruz is also looking at recycled water and the Pajaro Valley water agency is already recycling. Conservation continues to be part of a solution, and Soquel Creek sends text messages to customers when their daily water use jumps up, which can indicate a leak.
Water isn’t cheap in our county, for ratepayers or home builders and Soquel Creek customers will face more increases to help defray Pure Water costs. But doing nothing as climate change-driven drought becomes more frequent is not an option.
And here’s what’s most important: With few other options available, and the state requiring water agencies to combat groundwater contamination, Soquel Creek has taken a lead to help ensure the aquifer is saved and there is enough water to meet coming demand.
Lather is a water engineer, Jaffe an oceanographer and Christensen an environmental biologist. The district has been well served by all three, which is why we urge their reelection to the Soquel Creek Water District Board.