PWS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below is a compilation of frequently asked questions and responses regarding the Pure Water Soquel Project. This list of FAQs will be updated and maintained to address the most frequently asked questions.
1. IS THE PURE WATER SOQUEL PROJECT A WASTEWATER TREATMENT PROJECT?
No, the project is not a wastewater treatment project. It is a groundwater replenishment and seawater intrusion prevention project that will create recycled water at the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility and then it will purify it at an advanced water purification facility at Chanticleer/Soquel Avenue. This is not a wastewater facility. The technology used at the purification facility will use reverse osmosis and UV-light and then the purified water will be piped to seawater intrusion prevention wells that have been strategically located in Capitola and Aptos to create a barrier underground so that seawater contamination doesn't move further inland and contaminate drinking water wells.
2. WATER PURIFICATION ALREADY IN USE? WHERE?
Yes, using purified water for drinking is not new in the US and has been in use for more than 40 years since the 1970s. Many other communities such as Monterey, San Diego, Pismo Beach, and Santa Clara in California, as well as Singapore, Australia, Texas, Virginia, and Colorado, are currently operating or evaluating this type of project — with many more in various stages of consideration or development. Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenishment Project has produced over 200 billion gallons of purified water to recharge its groundwater basin. Disneyland theme park proudly promotes its participation in this type of water recycling and purification program, boasting that, “…almost all the water used at the Resort is recycled in this manner".
3. IS PURIFIED RECYCLED WATER SAFE?
Yes. The State of California, which regulates the treatment of groundwater and surface water, is also responsible for regulating the production of purified water. Regulations ensure water purveyors meet state and federal water quality standards, making certain the water is safe. This also includes testing and strict water quality requirements for removing constituents of emerging concern such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products. The National Water Research Institute commissioned a third-party, technical panel to evaluate and review the District's Pure Water Soquel Project and they concluded that the project was "plausible, feasible and protective of public health". Water quality sampling confirms purified water that undergoes this level of treatment has a much higher level of water quality than treated groundwater or surface water.
4. HOW DOES THE PROJECT ADDRESS WATER ISSUES IN THE LIVE OAK AREA or APTOS/LA SELVA BEACH AREA IF THE SEAWATER INTRUSION BARRIER WELLS ARE MORE IN THE IN MID-COUNTY AREA?
The groundwater basin on which we all depend on drinking water is shared by Soquel Creek Water District (SqCWD), City of Santa Cruz, Central Water District, and private wells. Representatives of each of these entities comprise the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency (MGA – see more information at www.midcountygroundwater.org). The State of California has officially designated this basin as critically overdrafted, and the MGA is responsible for bringing the basin into sustainability by 2040.
There are several municipal drinking water wells in the Live Oak community, which are operated and maintained by the City of Santa Cruz. As shown in the map below, Live Oak is part of the MGA basin area. These wells rely on that already-overdrafted groundwater basin to provide water for the people of Live Oak and the greater community. This water supply is at great risk, with seawater contamination detected in the groundwater aquifers near the well field in the Live Oak/Pleasure Point area (in fact, seawater intrusion is occurring throughout the coastline from the Harbor to Pleasure Point/Live Oak to Aptos/La Selva Beach). From Pleasure Point to Aptos-Seascape-La Selva Beach area, the groundwater pumping can be optimized to redistribute pumping away from the coast and more inland. This redistribution, along with putting purified water into the ground through the seawater intrusion barrier wells, will raise protective groundwater levels.
Everyone living within the MGA area is affected by the groundwater overdraft and seawater intrusion problem. The Project is being developed as a means of replenishing the overdrafted groundwater aquifer, providing a barrier to seawater intrusion, and thereby protecting and sustaining the water supply for all within the MGA area.
5. WHY IS THE WATER PURIFICATION FACILITY BEING LOCATED IN LIVE OAK? IS IT BECAUSE THE RESIDENTS OF SOQUEL DIDN'T WANT IT? WHAT ABOUT THE BIKE-PEDESTRIAN CROSSING AND THE PROPOSAL WITH KAISER FACILITY COMING TO THE LIVE OAK AREA?
The advanced water purification facility is proposed to be built in the empty lot at Chanticleer Avenue and Soquel Avenue, based upon the following numerous factors:
- The water purification facility is deemed to be a good fit with the site’s general surroundings, and with the commercial/mixed-use facilities in the vicinity. SqCWD sought input from the County of Santa Cruz in early 2017 on potential project sites that were at least one acre in size, and the Chanticleer site was identified as part of that effort. The site, zoned M-1(light industrial), has been vacant for the last 20+ years.
- The water purification facility can be co-located with the proposed bike-pedestrian crossing also on the same site. That location is currently identified by the Regional Transportation Commission for a bike/pedestrian bridge crossing over Highway 1. That overcrossing as proposed would need frontage road access on Soquel Avenue, which makes the site less viable for commercial uses (but this is not an issue for the water purification facility). A municipal water project and a transportation project at the site are compatible, both could fit on/adjacent to the site together, and both provide significant community benefits – these two uses are a good fit with the site, and with each other (see maps below).
- The water purification facility will not cause increased traffic impacts in an area already heavily impacted by traffic congestion. Once built, will have minimal traffic impacts, as compared to other types of potential uses for that site (commercial, self-storage, etc.). With only an estimated five employees on-site, and occasional school/educational tours, the vehicle trips associated with the Project will be minimal.
- The water purification facility at Chanticleer is centrally located and has the potential for expansion if the City of Santa Cruz is interested in the future. The City of Santa Cruz is also considering recycled water as part of its water portfolio, to address its water shortage issues.
- We aim to build a water purification facility at Chanticleer to be a showcase for Santa Cruz County. Located right off the freeway, tourists and residents can be proud that our region is recycling 25% of the water that is discharged out into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and instead of being put to beneficial reuse to prevent further seawater contamination and ensuring water sustainability of water, one of our precious natural resources. As stated above, the facility will be taking tertiary treated water – absolutely no raw sewage will be involved – as its source water and purifying it through reverse osmosis, and UV disinfection. This treatment process is well-proven (Orange County Water District has been operating a similar facility since the 1970s) and when operational, will not generate excessive noise, odor, or traffic. In fact, per the Project’s Environmental Impact Report, there will be no significant environmental impacts during facility operations.
- Other things to note:
- In late 2016, there were residents in Soquel who opposed to SqCWD building a facility that would take raw, untreated wastewater from the sewer system. That is not the same project or process that is being planned at the Chanticleer site. The Pure Water Soquel project has evolved since that time and the City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District reached an agreement in 2017 memorializing preliminary terms of getting already treated effluent from the City of Santa Cruz wastewater facility; thereby removing untreated wastewater as a source water.
- In early 2019, the project design has further evolved such that the design of the water purification process will be split: the recycled water treatment process will be done at the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility and the water purification process at Chanticleer Site.
- We have discussed the water purification facility with representatives from Kaiser; the two projects are not in conflict with one another.
6. WILL THE PROJECT GENERATE TRAFFIC, NOISE, OR ODOR WHEN OPERATIONAL?
The project, when operational, will have little to no impacts related to traffic, noise, or odor:
- Traffic: The facility at Chanticleer is anticipated to have approximately 5-6 employees. Other traffic would be occasional educational tours or school field trips to learn about the purification process and how water is recycled. At the seawater intrusion barrier well sites, vehicle trips will be approximately once a day or less.
- Noise: The equipment at Chanticleer and the seawater intrusion barrier well sites will not exceed noise thresholds and will be minimal or relative to the noise in the nearby area.
- Odor: The water that will be transported over to the Chanticleer site will be already treated effluent from the City of Santa Cruz. Water is enclosed in pipes and will not have odors emitted at Chanticleer site or the seawater intrusion barrier well sites.
7. WILL YOU BE DOING MORE OUTREACH IN THE LIVE OAK AREA?
Yes, we plan on doing outreach in the Live Oak area and two informational meetings will be held on May 18 and May 30. The District desires to reach out to the Live Oak community about the overdrafting and seawater contamination issues, how the Project will address those problems, and what the facility will be like. There is also the possibility for potential joint outreach with the Regional Transportation Commission and Kaiser since we all have projects identified in the Live Oak corridor of Soquel Avenue near Chanticleer. The Live Oak community’s needs related to water, transportation (bike/ped overcrossing), and medical services are all essential, so this may be a logical and productive approach.
8. IS THE DISTRICT PURSUING GRANTS OR LOANS?
Yes, the District has been awarded over $2M for planning studies. The District was also selected for $50M Prop 1 Grant, $36M State Seawater Intrusion Control low-interest loan from the State of California and $49M low-interest loan from US EPA Wifia program. The District is also exploring a grant of up to $20M through the US Bureau of Reclamation, and low-interest loans. Grants and low-interest loans are available to projects that have capital infrastructure (such as Pure Water Soquel). The District cannot apply for grants and loans if they purchase water (state and federal grant programs do not reimburse for water purchases) from the City of Santa Cruz or DeepWater Desal.
9. ARE THERE SUPPORTERS OF THE PROJECT?
As SqCWD has embarked on seeking grant funding for our project, we have been very fortunate to have support letters from many local, state, and federal officials including US Senator Kamala Harris, US Senator Diane Feinstein, US Assemblyman Jimmy Panetta, State Senator Bill Monning, State Assemblyman Mark Stone, Santa Cruz County Supervisors John Leopold and Zach Friend, local groups such as the Santa Cruz County Business Council, Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, Capitola-Soquel Chamber of Commerce, and many individual community leaders and residents.
10. WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER PROJECTS THAT THE DISTRICT WAS EVALUATING IN THE COMMUNITY WATER PLAN?
The key to long-term water sustainability is reliability, affordability, and environmental stewardship. Within our Community Water Plan, the District identified surface water transfers, desalination, and stormwater capture in addition to purified recycled water. The continued evaluation by the City of Santa Cruz of surface water transfers states that there is not enough water to reliably support their community needs and provide water to neighboring agencies such as the District. This information was presented at the City of Santa Cruz's Water Commission on April 1, 2019 with links to documents below. The desalination project in Moss Landing has been delayed due to the additional analysis being conducted. Stormwater capture feasibility is currently underway and additional testing is being conducted this spring in the Aptos area. Thus, the District is continuing to evaluate and consider small volumes of supplemental water that could come from water transfers from Santa Cruz and stormwater capture; but these options would be to complement Pure Water Soquel, not replace it.
- Full Presentation from the City of Santa Cruz Water Commission April 1, 2019 Meeting (.pdf)
- City's Surface Water Dispatch Order and Constraints (from 4/1/2019 presentation, .pdf)
- Response from Rosemary Menard, City of Santa Cruz Water Director, on May 13, 2019, addressing misinformation to Op-Ed Piece (.pdf)