On February 9, the Santa Cruz City Council agreed to sell the Soquel Creek Water District a limited amount of available winter surface water each year from the City's north coast sources for the next 5 years. The Cooperative Water Transfer and Purchase Agreement, which outlines the financial terms of the purchase as well as water supply status and other conditions that must be met by the City before they can sell available water, was agreed to by the City and Soquel Creek in the fall of 2015, but finalizing the agreement has been on hold for several months while the environmental review was carried out. In anticipation of a potential water transfer, Soquel undertook a water quality impacts assessment to identify and plan for any issues that might need to be managed. This work is ongoing and both agencies are working together to ensure the success of the project.
Any water transfer that ultimately occurs will require approval from the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), Division of Drinking Water, and City and District staff who have been working with SWRCB staff on the approval process.
Purchasing water from the City will allow the District to pump less groundwater and give some much-needed relief to our over-drafted aquifers. Specifically, the maximum transfer allowed under the agreement would provide the District with about 1/5 of our average usage during the winter months. The 5-year purchase of available winter surface water is also a pilot project, intended to support ongoing investigations into a more long-term and larger surface water transfer concept, as identified by the Santa Cruz Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC). The WSAC chose the transfer of excess winter water to the District for either 'in-lieu' use or aquifer storage and recovery (ASR), with the expectation that they could get some water back during droughts or multiple dry years in the future, as their 'preferred option' for a supplemental water supply. Testing the feasibility of the transfer process is the first step in evaluating those potential projects.
While the District continues to explore options with the City, it is also pursuing advanced water purification (AWP) for groundwater replenishment as its 'preferred option' for a supplemental water supply. A feasibility study for that project is wrapping up, and the environmental review will begin this summer. AWP and water transfers could both be important components of a water supply portfolio that provides safe and reliable water in a timely manner, qualities that are important to our District customers.
There were hopes that water transfers under the purchase agreement could begin as soon as this winter, but even though the purchase agreement and environmental documents have been completed, water won't flow through the 8-inch intertie (located at 41st Avenue and Soquel Drive) until the winter of 2016 to 2017.