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Soquel Creek Water District breaks ground on new advanced water purification center

  • Soquel Creek Water District breaks ground on new advanced water purification center
    Credit: Soquel Creek Water District

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With a forward-looking theme of “Water Transformed!” the Soquel Creek Water District held a groundbreaking ceremony last week, commemorating the start of construction on its Advanced Water Purification Center – the heart of the Pure Water Soquel Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Contamination Prevention Project.

The festive groundbreaking event took place at the site of the new facility, on Chanticleer Avenue near Soquel Avenue in the Live Oak area of Santa Cruz County, just north of Capitola. Approximately 50 invited guests attended to help celebrate the official start of construction on this state-of-the-art water purification facility.

Among the dignitaries speaking at this event were:

  • Tomas Torres, Director, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Water Division, Region 9
  • Richard Welsh, Principal Deputy Regional Director for U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Interior Region 10
  • E. Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board
  • Kent-Harris Repass, representing U.S. Congressman Jimmy Panetta
  • State Senator John Laird
  • State Assemblymember Mark Stone

Additionally, members of the Soquel Creek Water District Board of Directors, the Santa Cruz City Council, and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors offered their remarks.

After the keynote speeches, the group of dignitaries ceremonially turned over shovels-full of dirt to commemorate the groundbreaking, to great applause and support from the gathered attendees. Throughout the event, a steady stream of attendees was excited to take selfies with an over-sized butterfly wing backdrop, in the colors of the Pure Water Soquel butterfly logo. The resulting photos gave people the opportunity to embrace the “Water Transformed!” theme by embodying the appearance of having colorful butterfly wings.  Many participants quickly posted their pictures with #watertransformed to commemorate their participation at this momentous occasion.

“Projects like Pure Water Soquel are critical to fighting drought and reducing climate change impacts throughout the West,” said EPA’s Water Division Director for the Pacific Southwest region Tomás Torres. “The EPA is committed to helping communities pursue smarter water management strategies, and we are proud to help finance this state-of-the-art treatment system to benefit local residents for generations to come. This represents the future of water in the West.” 

The purified water produced at this new facility will be sent to seawater intrusion prevention/recharge wells to replenish the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin, which is the sole source of water supply for District customers and other residents in the mid-county. This basin is designated by the State of California as critically over-drafted, resulting in a shortage of drinking water and verified seawater contamination of the aquifer at several locations. Recharging the basin with purified, clean, safe water, will create and maintain a barrier against further seawater contamination, and provide a high-quality, reliable, and sustainable water supply for generations to come in the Santa Cruz Mid-County region.

“Climate change is challenging us all to become more creative and inclusive as we accelerate efforts to preserve our water supply,” said State Water Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “Water recycling is a creative solution, and we are working with partners like the Soquel Creek Water District to help broaden access to recycling projects beyond big, major cities. We are eager to support local leaders and their vision as they develop new ways to address multiple challenges and goals.” 

This region is not connected to any state or federal imported water system – it relies on rainfall to naturally replenish the groundwater. However, due to the critical overdraft condition of the basin, coupled with a series of droughts, the District has been in a ‘Groundwater Emergency and Stage 3 Water Shortage Emergency’ every year since 2014. Groundwater levels in the basin are below sustainable levels which has resulted in verified saltwater contamination of the groundwater at several locations. While District residents have done a remarkable job of water conservation, a reliable supplemental source of water is needed to raise the groundwater levels and prevent further seawater intrusion. Pure Water Soquel is designed to accomplish exactly that.

“After many years of working to find a way to protect our groundwater supply for the long term and achieve sustainability, I am happy to announce that the advanced water purification center – the heart of Pure Water Soquel – is now under construction and anticipated to be completed and operational in 2023,” said incoming Board President Tom LaHue. “This has been a monumental, multi-year effort by our staff and our board, with the help of our community, and in collaboration with the entire region. Pure Water Soquel is truly ‘water transformed!’” 

This groundbreaking marks the start of the final step in the construction of the three key elements of Pure Water Soquel. Construction of the eight-mile conveyance pipeline system to recycle water from the Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility to the Water Purification Center got underway last spring and will continue through 2022. The three Seawater Intrusion Prevention (SWIP) wells, where the purified water will be stored underground to recharge the aquifer, are substantially complete. More information about Pure Water Soquel is online at www.soquelcreeekwater.org/pws.

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