A coalition of groups invited environmental scientist, James Fryer, to visit Santa Cruz in May. Fryer, former manager of conservation programs for the Marin Municipal Water District, spoke on “Sustaining Our Water Future in Santa Cruz”. To view a half-hour video of the talk, click here.
Fryer recommended that the environmental and financial costs of desalination be the benchmark with which to measure other alternatives such as conservation, water recycling, and water transfers. Fryer shared such a comparative cost analysis that he had done for Marin, listing a package of measures that can meet the Marin District’s water needs without building a desalination plant. He pointed out that it is currently not possible to complete such an analysis for Santa Cruz since more data is needed, both on the projected costs of desalination, and on the potential of various conservation and other measures. The Santa Cruz Water Department has just funded a survey that will help supply data, such as the saturation rate of efficient toilets.
Fryer thought that Santa Cruz drought policy “may significantly underestimate the ability and willingness of residents to reduce water use during infrequent serious drought conditions”. How much can a household that has already installed efficient fixtures and appliances save during a drought? Fryer’s analysis shows that the household’s normal indoor use of 51 gallons/person/day drops to 31 gallons/person/day through behavioral changes such as shorter showers, less frequent laundering, and not flushing after each use. Fryer pointed out that the City of Santa Cruz plan for water curtailment (2009) indicates that a serious drought with a 35% curtailment would result in a 52 gal/person/day allotment. Even a drought requiring 50% curtailment would result in a 43 gal/person/day, still well above the capability of the water efficient household. The conclusion is that households that have already become more water efficient in normal years still have great potential to save during extreme droughts.
The audience applauded when Fryer said, “It’s almost always a good idea to increase public involvement on these major decisions that will affect the community for generations to come.”
Fryer’s publications that are relevant to Santa Cruz: