Skip to content (press enter)
They are how we protect our special coastal places

03 • 01 • 2016

Conservation before Desalination in Santa Cruz, CA

The goal of this campaign is to stop a plan for a new desalination project with a projected open-ocean intake of 2.5 million gallons per day (MGD) and instead successfully advocate for water conservation and aquifer recharge strategies to secure the water supply for Santa Cruz.

Through the support of a ballot measure requiring a public vote before any desalination project is constructed and participation in a Water Supply Advisory Committee, the Santa Cruz Chapter and their local partners were able to defeat a desalination project proposed by the City of Santa Cruz and the Soquel Creek Water District.  The desal plant intended to suck up 2.5 million gallons per day (MGD) of seawater through an open ocean intake and discharge the concentrated brine into the local sewage treatment plant.  The Water Supply Advisory Committee, however, was able to demonstrate to the community that there were cheaper and more efficient ways to protect Santa Cruz's water supply that would not pollute the environment, but would instead offer multiple benefits beyond securing a potable water supply.  Ultimately, the City chose to increase water conservation efforts first and optimize the use of winter rain for aquifer restoration and storage.  Recycled water will be explored as necessary, but desalination strategies have been shelved to the bottom of the list once all other solutions have first been explored and implemented.  A presentation of all water supply protection strategies is available here: