Price Water to Encourage Conservation

March 3rd, 7pm City Council Meeting on Water Rate Structure

A basic principle of conservation pricing is to charge for water based on how much water is used. The more you use, the more you pay. Although this seems like common sense, there are water utilities in California today that charge a fixed rate for each customer— no matter how much water the customer uses. Utilities sometimes value a predictable and dependable revenue stream over the need for conservation. Continue reading

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Pennies from Heaven

San Lorenzo 12-4-14Here’s what I’ve been hearing people say about the rain, “I wish we could store more of it”. That just about sums up Santa Cruz’s water problem. We get plenty of rain at times and can go for long periods without much rain. We need more storage to smooth out the dips.
In his proposal to use the old Cemex quarry on the North Coast for a reservoir, JoeBen Bevert points out that Santa Cruz has a low amount of storage in proportion to its annual water use compared to other urban water districts in this climate. The City’s storage in Loch Lomond Reservoir in relationship to its annual water use is approximately 1:1. San Francisco PUC has a 3:1 storage-to-use ratio. Continue reading

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Conservation Reduces Drought Shortfall

Loch Lomond, Oct 2, 2010

The City’s Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC)  is trying to analyze strategies that would reduce the City’s water supply shortfall during drought years. The question is, just how big a shortfall are we facing during drought years? Climate changes could result in drought years that are worse than 1977, which is the current benchmark worst-case.

Whatever the WSAC settles on in terms of a future climate change scenario, the good news is that conservation measures are a powerful tool to reduce and even eliminate the shortfall in most drought years. I presented the following information to the WSAC that demonstrates that a small amount of reduction in our water demand has a multiplier effect on reducing our shortfall. That’s because every gallon of water we don’t consume in a normal year is saved in Loch Lomond Reservoir and available in future droughts.

Desal Alternatives has suggested for years that the City’s dramatic reduction in water demand—25% in the ten years ending in 2010—has improved our shortfall picture. But until now we never had access to the Confluence Model spreadsheet the City uses to calculate its shortfall. Access to the Confluence Model allows us to plug in the amount of actual current water demand, instead of using outdated demand estimates. The result is a very encouraging picture of our drought shortfall. Continue reading

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Myth: A Carbon Neutral Desal Plant

moss landingThe Santa Cruz City Council as well as the Board of the Soquel Creek Water District expressed their desire that the proposed desal plant be carbon neutral. There is a big difference between that desire and the feasibility of accomplishing it.

The obvious way to make a desal plant carbon neutral would be to power it with renewable energy. However, this option was dismissed by the 2005 EIR for the Integrated Water Plan. “… these sources are not feasible at this time for power requirements typical of large-scale industrial-type applications.” This statement is misleading. Continue reading

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Conservation Lessons Video

The one-hour video is now online of our forum on Conservation: Lessons Learned, with Conner Everts discussing Australia and Ron Duncan discussing the Soquel Creek Water District. Or watch the video on Community TV, Channel 27, Thursdays 8/14, 8/21, 8/28, and 9/4 at 9 PM.

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Water Neutral Growth

Growth Increases Our Drought Risk

Santa Cruz needs water policies that will allow reasonable growth to continue without increasing demand for water.That way we can effectively manage our drought risk. A 2004 City Water Department report(1) put it this way:

“Continuing to provide water to new customers upon request, as is the current practice, may do harm to existing customers by making the potential water shortage situation worse than it would otherwise be.” Continue reading

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Equitable Water Pricing: Who Pays and Who Benefits from Water Supply Strategies?

 People affected by change have to be deeply involved in the crafting of solutions—they are going to pay for them either economically or through changes in how they live. We need more democracy, not less.   - William Ruckelshaus, the first director of the Environmental Protection Agency

Our water supply predicament in mid Santa Cruz County would benefit from “more democracy”. We’re going to have to pay for water solutions, use less water, or both. Arriving at our choice through democratic means will be a challenge. Our community’s ability to achieve consensus on water solutions could be undermined by the disparity between those customers who are used to using a lot of water and those who use much less. How likely is it that customers whose water use is within sustainable levels will support an expensive water supply project? Continue reading

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Water Transfers Between Districts

ACTION STEP: The Santa Cruz Council should direct the Water Department to:

1)    Apply now for water rights permission to immediately transfer water to Soquel Creek District
2)    Enter negotiations with Soquel Creek Water District, Scotts Valley Water District and San Lorenzo Valley Water District to contract for reciprocal water exchanges.
3)    Open the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) negotiations to participation from the County and neighboring water districts in order to facilitate fisheries agency approval of a water transfer plan. The HCP process should also be public.
4)    Report on the cost and benefits of pre-treatment of turbid water and the “Lochquifer Strategy”.

The concept of water transfers is that Santa Cruz would draw San Lorenzo River water, treat it, and send it to Soquel Creek Water District and Scotts Valley Water District in winter months when there is more than enough water in the river to satisfy fish reproduction requirements. Those districts, which are 100% dependent on groundwater, would be able to reduce their pumping of groundwater during the winter, allowing the aquifer to recharge.

From the point of view of Santa Cruz, water transfers is a water storage strategy. Continue reading

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EIR flaw of the month

To download the complete comment from California Department of Fish and Wildlife, click here.

In what may become a regular feature, we reprint comments on the Draft EIR for the desal project. A look at some of the 400 comments from agencies, experts, and the public lead us to conclude that the Draft EIR is flawed beyond repair. If the City chooses to spend more money on “fixing” the flaws for a final EIR, the only credible result would be a fair assessment of alternatives to the project, and a conclusion that the project is not needed.

In this newsletter we feature the comment from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW): Continue reading

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Carbon Offsets Debunked

Myth & Reality

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