By Rachél Lather, President, Soquel Creek Water District Board of Directors
Many people are breathing a sigh of relief as the new year begins, looking forward to 2021 with hope and optimism while saying farewell to 2020. It was indeed an unprecedented year, as we all learned new ways of interacting, finding new ways to work, and simply conducting our everyday lives.
I'm grateful that despite the challenges of 2020, the District achieved many significant accomplishments. The District prioritizes being action-oriented to make even more progress in 2021, and I'm excited to be the incoming District Board President and serving my community in this new position.
Even under the extraordinarily-difficult pandemic circumstances, our District staff continued to exhibit an amazing amount of creativity, drive, and resilience in providing our core services while implementing plans for the future that will supplement our water supply and combat saltwater contamination of the groundwater on which we depend. I'm very proud of everyone who is carrying out the District's mission.
Here are just a few of our key accomplishments of 2020:
- Produced, treated, and delivered over a billion gallons of drinking water while performing over 26,000 water quality tests
- Completed a feasibility study on designing stormwater capture wells at several Seascape golf course locations
- Neared complete installation of over 15,000 i-Meters, and unveiled a new online customer portal
- Substantially completed two saltwater intrusion prevention wells for use with the Pure Water Soquel project and progressed with the design of the new water purification center, new recycled water facility, and the pipeline conveyance system to connect those components
- Executed a $50 million Proposition 1 Groundwater Implementation Grant from the State Water Resources Control Board and a significant low-interest loan from the federal Environmental Protection Agency
When I worked as a professional in the wastewater field, I saw a great need for us, as a community, to get past the obstacles to creating a sustainable water supply. I became involved with the District because I felt I had the capacity to assist in finding creative, productive solutions, and to help the District navigate the complex path to water sustainability.
Now, as 2021 gets underway, I remain confident and resolute in my vision, hopes, and call to action. I want the work we do to show people the true value of water - not just the cost of water. I want to help the community to recognize that investment in our water supply infrastructure is important for today but even more critical for our children and the generations beyond. And I want to ensure that the District continues the great progress we're making in carrying out our mission. For 2021, this includes:
- Continue to efficiently deliver clean, safe water to the community, effectively manage our groundwater, and enhance water supply reliability
- Ensure that our pipeline replacement program maintains a proactive pace
- Further our progress on construction of the Pure Water Soquel components, leading to start-up by the end of 2022/early 2023
- Fully implement i-Meters and a new online portal to reach all customers
- Provide our community members with the tools they need to continue their already-remarkable job of conserving water
- Maintain our public outreach - virtually or, if circumstances improve, in person! - to ensure our customers are fully engaged in the District's programs, projects, and activities
I want to remind you that in 2021 we move into the significant construction phases of Pure Water Soquel, and there will be impacts - particularly as we build over eight miles of pipelines from the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility to our Water Purification Center and wells. We'll do our best to minimize the disruption, but please have patience with some roads being torn up, detours, noise, and dust. It's all leading to a supplemental water supply, a replenished groundwater basin, prevention of saltwater intrusion, and a reduction in treated wastewater being pumped into the Monterey Bay. Be sure to visit soquelcreekwater.org/pws for more information and to sign up to receive construction update emails.
I want to thank the community for its support and patience through the difficulties and struggles of 2020. I strongly believe that 2021 will be a vast improvement in many ways, not the least of which will be great progress on our mutual objectives for our local water supply.
Ms. Lather has served on the Board of Directors since 2016 and was sworn in as President of the Board on December 15, 2020, for 2021. A resident of Aptos and a civil engineer with more than 30 years of experience, Ms. Lather serves on the Board's Water Resources Management and Infrastructure Committee, and as an alternate on the Public Outreach Committee and the Finance and Administrative Services Committee.