WATER SUPPLY ADVISORY COMMITTEE
In October of 2013, the City Council directed staff to develop a plan to engage the community in an examination of water supply issues. From that direction, the Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC) was born. There are 14 members on the committee who represent broad community interests including the environment, business, education and the water commission.
The committee’s scope of work covers three phases.
- Phase 1: Learn about our water sources and delivery system in detail, learn about our community’s water supply and demand, and learn about opportunities to improve the reliability of Santa Cruz’s water supply.
- Phase 2: Explore possible solutions in detail.
- Phase 3: Develop a list of recommendations to solve the supply and demand gap that will be taken to the Santa Cruz City Council for review and action.
WHERE DOES OUR WATER COME FROM AND WHO USES IT?
- San Lorenzo River: 46%
- North Coast streams: 25%
- Loch Lomond: 22%
- Beltz Wells: 4%
- Tait Wells: 3%
- Single family residential: 41%
- Mutliple residential: 23%
- Business: 19%
- UCSC/Industrial: 7%
- Irrigation: 4%
- Golf course irrigation: 3%
- Municipal: 2%
- Coast irrigation: 1%
Preliminary estimates are that the gap between our supply of water and our demand on our water supply is 300-400 million gallons per year. We need a portfolio of actions we can take that will give us access to 300-400 million more gallons of water to get us through dry years and to support fish habitat.
KEY WATER CHALLENGES
Santa Cruz’s water supply is 100% dependent upon local rainfall. When it doesn’t rain, our water supply is vulnerable. Key challenges facing our water supply include drought, providing habitat for threatened or endangered fish species and climate change.
Infrequent drought, without the need to provide water for fish and without climate change, could be manageable. However leaving water for fish, regardless of climate change and water shortages, still presents a challenge to managing our water supply.
Drought, fish protection and climate change together have created a serious situation in Santa Cruz where our water supply will continue to become increasingly unreliable. The Santa Cruz Water Supply Convention is about looking at ideas and strategies to improve the reliability of our water supply.
Protecting and Restoring Fish Habitat
Here in Santa Cruz, we value fish and wildlife and are committed to working to protect and restore our fishery resources. Doing so has impacts on our own water supply. During low rainfall years, the gap between water needed and water available grows significantly. There are differing opinions on how much water fish need and how much water we need. Negotiations with regulators are ongoing.
Climate change is a wild card in water supply planning. Climate change will likely cause increased variability, increased frequency of drought and changes in precipitation patterns. While we have some idea of what potential impacts might be, there is no model to help us forecast what the future holds or how to manage our water supply into an unknown future.