Aptos Village Water Demand Offset - March 2014

Originally posted on tpgonlinedaily.com
Last month I shared that the District frequently hears from customers who wonder why new development is being permitted when our community is facing a serious water shortage. On top of that, we're asking our customers to conserve water. Recently the conversation has centered on the Aptos Village Redevelopment Project, an 11.5-acre town square-style residential and commercial project planned for Aptos.

The District recently approved water service to the  Aptos Village project. And while this will results in dozens of new units, the new development will actually reduce the overall water demand while we work towards obtaining a supplemental supply.

How is that possible? The Disrict has a Water Demand Offset (WDO) Program for any new development. The WDO Program requires developers to offset their anticipated water use by 160-200%. So they have to save twice as much water as the new development will be using. They do it by reducing existing customers' water use elsewhere in the District. Developers must find existing places-like schools or businesses- and pay to put in water saving devices  such as ultra low-flow toilets or high-efficiency washers and dishwashers. Thus, new development actually leads to water savings. Developers cover the cost of this program on top of the standard development fees they each must pay. This program results in a 11net-positive" effect has been instrumental in helping us lower our total annual consumption by 25% over the past decade in spite of additional development.

As a direct result of the Aptos Village project, hundreds of fixtures were replaced in both residential and commercial buildings throughout the District.

Since the WDO program began in 2003, developers have paid for over 3,000 water-efficient toilets in existing homes, businesses and schools. This means that if you received a free toilet through the District's toilet replacement program, you can thank someone  who  was  trying  to  build a home or business facility. The program accounts for 160 acre-feet per year of water saved-enough to supply 10,000 households with water for one year. The District may expand the program to include other water-saving action builders can take, like replacing turf and installing water cisterns to store rainwater.

The Aptos Village project itself meets strict water conservation requirements for high-efficiency fixtures including toilets and showerheads. It will also exceed standards for low-water-use landscaping. The project includes an innovative system that directs rainwater to landscaping features, allowing the water to soak down into the ground rather than entering a storm drain and ultimately discharging to the ocean. Aptos Village will serve as a conservation showcase for other urban projects not only in the District, but countywide.

However, as part of its ongoing efforts to secure a sufficient and sustainable water supply for our customers, the District is in fact considering enacting a building moratorium. A moratorium would prevent all construction that would lead to increased water use, or a larger 11water footprint." It would prevent both new development and remodels of existing structures that lead to more water use. It means no new homes or home remodels that, for example, add a bathroom or a bedroom. It would also affect any new municipal projects including the City of Capitola, County of Santa Cruz Parks, and the proposed Heart of Soquel Village project.

The Board will discuss this potential moratorium at an upcoming meeting. We are still working on details regarding when this meeting will take place and where it will be held, but we will make sure to get that information out as soon as it becomes available. The Board will evaluate and discuss the very complex feasibility implications, legal issues, and the economic impacts on our com- munity of a possible moratorium in our portion of the shared ground-water basin.

If the District does declares a moratorium it must, as a condition, also actively begin pursuing a sup- plemental water supply. Since the District has been actively pursuing a supplemental supply project for several years we already meet that condition as long as we continue this effort. While we were well down the path to a desalination plant project with our partners at the City of Santa Cruz, since the City took a step back to reevaluate the project, our Board has been discussing alternate supplemental supply options. These options include desalination, water transfers and using recycled water to recharge our depleted underground basins.

The District is committed to pursuing all available options for meeting our community's water needs and will continue to evaluate all tools available at out disposal. As I said last month, we operate with an open door policy and always welcome customers' ideas and contributions to our ongoing conversation on this critical issue.

I encourage you to visit our website for water conservation tips, free appliances like low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, and rebates on everything from high-efficiency washers to graywater systems to turf replacement.

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