.Down the Pipe

Brief-GT1540-waterThe Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC), which aimed to finalize its recommendations by 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2, wrapped up with four minutes to spare. The recommendations aren’t what any single committee member would call ideal, according to WSAC member Mike Rotkin, but after 18 months, it was as close as anyone was going to get.

“Nobody will say about this agreement, ‘I loved every piece of it,’” says Rotkin, a five-time former Santa Cruz Mayor. “They’re going to their constituents and saying, ‘This had to happen. We’re going to sell this to the public to make it work.’ That’s not the same as saying, ‘How do I get behind this?’”

This is the committee the Santa Cruz City Council tasked with coming up with a water supply solution after city leaders put the desalination plant on hold in the summer of 2013. Soon the council will be looking at the WSAC’s 73-page report—which, like any other report in Santa Cruz, will probably be interpreted differently by its readers.

The committee is suggesting a three-pronged solution to the city’s water shortage—the first piece being increased conservation, which the WSAC says will meet 17 to 21 percentage of demand in the worst-case-scenario drought. The second piece is a water swap with Scotts Valley or Soquel Creek Water District, something activists have wanted for years. Engineers say that that proposal has a lot of unknowns, and it could end up being the most expensive water project recommended.

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The final recommendation would only kick in if there are issues with the water swap. That piece would be recycled wastewater for potable use—something the California Department of Health is currently studying—and desal as a possible back-up to that.

The group’s unanimous vote in favor of the report was immediately followed by some backslapping, handshaking, congratulations, and grinning—a nice moment. Here’s hoping it lasts. 


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