The Soquel Creek Water District received a grant of nearly $21 million for its Pure Water Soquel Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion Prevention Project this month. The funds came from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, as part of President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The federal WaterSMART Title XVI program supports water recycling and reuse projects in western states. This month, it provided $54 million in funding to projects along the Central Coast, including Soquel.
“We are so grateful for this $21 million grant which, when added to the prior $9 million grant awarded under this program, represents a benefit of $2,000 per each of our 15,000 customer accounts,” said Tom LaHue, president of the water district’s board of directors, in a statement.
Soquel Creek Water District serves more than 40,000 local residents using groundwater from the Mid-County Groundwater Basin. For several years, users pumped water out of the basin quicker than it could naturally refill, and seawater began to creep into the space left behind.
The basin was officially categorized as “critically overdrafted” in 2015. The Pure Water Soquel project aims to help remedy that by pumping recycled water back into the ground to create a freshwater barrier against seawater intrusion.
Wastewater will go through advanced purification to drinking water standards before getting injected back into the basin at three seawater intrusion prevention wells.
“The more than $20 million in federal funding that we just got from the bipartisan IIJA for the Soquel Creek Water District will not only help bolster the productivity of the project but also demonstrates the will of the federal government to help us buoy our drought resiliency and water sustainability on the Central Coast,” said Congressman Jimmy Panetta in a press release.
The project is currently in the construction phase, with eight miles of pipeline going underground between the Westside of Santa Cruz and Aptos. Construction also includes nine monitoring wells, three injection wells, additions to the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility and a new water purification center in Live Oak.
The project is estimated to cost around $90 million, and Soquel Creek Water District has taken advantage of several state and federal funding opportunities. In addition to the new $21 million grant, the agency received more than $52 million in grants from the state and $9 million from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, in addition to low-interest loans from the State Seawater Intrusion Control Loan Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program.
The water district plans to complete construction and begin operations by early 2024.