We have just experienced the very dry months of January, February, and now also into March. These are months that should bring some of the highest rainfall of the season. The heavy rain last December was most welcome—but it doesn’t change the fact that we are in a continuing drought. This past January was the third driest January in 128 years on record! This drought is shaping up to be far worse than any in recent memory. In fact, it could be a drought of historic, unprecedented proportions. Even normal levels of rain don’t have an immediate impact on the groundwater basin– and the threat of additional drought conditions decreases that longer-term natural contribution to the groundwater.
It’s clear, based on the vast preponderance of validated scientific study, that the lack of rain we are now facing is not an anomaly – it’s climate change and it is likely to continue to bring more extreme weather events in the future. Climate change greatly intensifies our water supply challenges and spotlights the critical need for new water sources to supplement our groundwater supply, which is already overdrafted and experiencing seawater contamination.
Many municipalities, counties, and other government agencies at all levels are working to reduce the overall carbon footprint of communities throughout California and the world. The goal of those actions is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen or ultimately reverse climate change. Although necessary, those are mostly longer-term actions that face many obstacles.
Here at the District, we are working strategically right now to directly and rapidly address one of the key impacts of climate change—a dramatically reduced level of rainfall coupled with more frequent drought years with bursts of intense storms. This results in less natural recharge and replenishment of the groundwater basin on which we solely rely on for our drinking water supply.
District customers and many others along the coast have done a great job of conserving water. But it’s not enough to offset the lack of rain and decreased recharge of the Santa Cruz Mid-County groundwater basin, especially when it’s already critically overdrafted. The State declared this basin unsustainable and set a mandate that the basin be brought back into sustainable levels by 2040.
The Pure Water Soquel project is now under construction. It will provide a drought-proof supply of purified water, to replenish the groundwater basin and prevent further seawater intrusion. Pure Water Soquel will help us to be resilient in the face of climate change and overdrafting and provide a sustainable water supply to support the future generations of our communities. We continue to also look at other options such as surface water and stormwater capture, but these supply options are dependent on rainfall.
Implementing Pure Water Soquel is part of the District’s long-term planning for the management of the groundwater basin, which really began decades ago as it became more and more clear that our groundwater was not at all the “unlimited” supply that many in those early days thought it was. As an organization, it’s important to continue to revise and update plans as conditions change to assure we are carrying out the tasks necessary on behalf of the community that will position us all for a positive future.
In 2015, the District engaged in a lengthy, comprehensive, collaborative, community process to create the District’s
formal “Mission Statement, Values, and Primary Organizational Goals,” which, along with the subsequent set of related strategies, formed the foundation and overarching direction of a Strategic Plan. Much has changed since 2015, and now in 2022, we are embarking on a strategic planning process to review and update, as needed, that earlier set of guiding documents to ensure our Strategic Plan best reflects our and our community’s understanding of circumstances today, and projections for the future.
To carry out this process, the District will hold a Board Workshop on April 2, 2022, to encourage and capture community and Board input. We will also interview our Standing Committee members, stakeholders, and community leaders to gain their strategic perspectives and ideas. We’ll review community-generated input from the previous strategic planning process and from the 2020 Community Survey to help us evaluate whether we are on track and what may have changed. This process will include gathering input from District staff through a variety of means.
This process will result in a Draft Strategic Plan Update for review and public comment anticipated by late Spring that will help guide our agency’s path for the next several years.
In light of climate change and its critical impacts to our groundwater basin, it’s even more important that the District and the community work as partners for a reliable water supply, as we develop this updated Strategic Plan and work together toward a sustainable water future.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.