News Article


Finding the “Right” Water

EIR Evaluates Desalination

Tuesday night’s study session on the EIR process regarding the City/Soquel Creek Water Districts’ desalination proposal captured the crux of the local conversation about water. The center of this debate should be, “Are we going to address the environmental, economic, and social consequences of our increasingly-acute shortage of water or are we not?” Those supporting the plan were enthusiastic about the quality of the process to make that determination. Those objecting wasted the opportunity second-guessing not only the professional staffs and commissioners of the local water departments, but the judgments of an impressive array of the independent professional environmentalists, engineers, legal and water professionals who prepared the EIR. One measure of the credibility of the plan is the list of those from the City’s progressive community who are advocating for it: former Mayors Mike Rotkin and Cynthia Mathews and City Water commissioner Andy Schiffrin (long-time aide Supervisor Gary Patton and, currently, to Supervisor Neal Coonerty) among others.

For more than a decade the city council has, with near unanimity, moved the process forward from concept to testing to evaluation to proposal. Next Monday the draft Environment Impact Report (EIR) will be released. Tuesday night’s presentation, describing the preparation of the EIR and the process that will be used to refine and adopt it, was articulate and meaningful. Although detractors spent some of the subsequent public comment session diverting attention from core issues, it was clear that the EIR will provide a thorough evaluation of both technical elements and the overall plan.

The session did have its moments. One speaker sought an investigation of jet aircraft contrails which, he believes, are secretly seeding clouds in a way that diverted rainfall away from the coast to inland farming areas. Another proposed to solve the problem by pumping water into existing aquifers (from what source was not clear.) Others would force reduction of current water use by 1/3… this in a community that has already reduced its per capita water use to ½ of that of the California average. Perhaps the least productive criticism was that the session was a waste of time and money; the complaining speakers and their colleagues were the cause of the effect to which they objected.

The EIR, which will be available for download, will be of encyclopedic length. However, there will be a summary for those interested in a less detailed analysis.