Background: The economic viability of Santa Cruz County and its businesses depends on the availability of an uninterrupted supply of water in all hydrologic conditions. The infrastructure necessary to deliver that supply must be maintained and continually improved to promote safety, welfare and commerce. The supply of water and the capacity of the water treatment and delivery system must be sufficient not only for today’s population but also for future growth. Limiting growth through constraints on water supply in an environment prone to drought is a strategy that threatens the community’s economic vitality, quality of life, and, in extreme drought, the health and safety of residents. Such a strategy should not be tolerated.
Circumstances: The sources of water in Santa Cruz County have been essentially the same since 1972. Virtually every water system in Santa Cruz County is plagued with the same two problems: aging infrastructure and inadequate supply for drought conditions. Even with the development of new water supplies through the construction of the proposed 2.5 million gallon per day desalination plant, the supply will not be sufficient to accommodate reasonable growth.
The urgency of the water shortfall is clear:
To varying degrees, water agencies in the County have relied on conservation efforts to stretch available water supply. Particularly in the City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District, conservation efforts have resulted in per capita use in the residential sector that is among the lowest in the State.
However, current successes in implementing conservation measures significantly limit the ability of the community to respond to drought emergencies through further reduction of water use. An important element of water policy in this environment is a well-informed electorate that understands the limits of conservation under these conditions. The absence of "excess capacity" jeopardizes the health, safety, and well-being of both residents and businesses.
The Chamber supports the development of a seawater desalination facility that is a joint effort between the City of Santa Cruz and the Soquel Creek Water District, to augment their existing resources. While seawater desalination is a more costly supply alternative to operate than others that have been considered in the past, it has the advantages of being drought-proof. It is not substantially more expensive to build than other alternatives and, most importantly, it has the support of Santa Cruz City Council and the Board of Directors of the Soquel Creek Water District, offering the best chance of being permitted and built in a reasonable time frame of any of the current alternatives. In addition, the proposed desalination facility has the potential to be expanded at some future time — a relatively straightforward process technically, and more economical than the initial phase.
It is time to direct energy and resources to this issue. The Chamber acknowledges the complex environmental, geological, political, financial, legal and technical issues surrounding water supply and services, and also appreciates the exhaustive long range planning efforts already undertaken by both the Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek water agencies. These agencies are to be commended for their willingness to engage in mutually beneficial collaborative projects. Current conservation efforts must be accompanied by the development of new water supplies and the continual improvement of water infrastructure to secure our safety, welfare and commerce.
Position Statement: The Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce supports current and future actions that: