Do we have enough water to support the needs of our community? Will we have enough water to support future growth? How will we manage the impacts of climate change on our water supply? These are important questions to consider. The discussion of these questions becomes even more compelling when put into the historical context of local water resources in Scotts Valley area that were overused due to the lack of awareness about the efficient use and value of water.
Scotts Valley Water District’s planning for today’s and tomorrow’s water needs has led to a counter-intuitive reality: improved technologies, changed behavior on the part of customers and evolved attitudes communitywide have led to far less use of water than in the past, even though our community continues to grow. In fact, since the year 2000, groundwater pumping (the District’s sole source of potable water) in the Scotts Valley area has decreased 46%.
The Role of the Water District
Similar to any other water purveyor in California, Scotts Valley Water District has no right to deny new connections as long as there is no moratorium established. In order to establish moratorium, an agency must show that there is an immediate and irreversible threat to the existing supply. Dry and severely dry years occur in California frequently and are not sufficient reasons to enact a moratorium.
Water agencies work with land use agencies to evaluate future water demands and develop long term plans for meeting such demands. As long as the new development stays within the planned growth projections (as per City’s and County’s General Plans and District’s Urban Water Management Plan), the District has no legal right to deny issuing new service connections.
Approximately 214 new residential water connections were added in the last five years, resulting in a 4% estimated increase in demand. Additional demand has also come from revitalized commercial areas, including 1440 Multiversity on Bethany Drive and Enterprise Technology Center along Santas Village Road.
System demand for potable water actually dropped 22% in recent years, from 473 million gallons in 2013 to just 370 million gallons in 2018.
Of course, much of the movement toward more efficient use of water came during the historic drought. California experienced four consecutive years of significantly below-average precipitation, beginning in 2012 and the governor declared a drought emergency in 2014 that included water conservation regulations.
However, water use in our area did not rebound when the last drought ended. In fact, average daily potable demand by Scotts Valley Water District customers today remains as low as it was during the height of the drought, reflecting a change in behavior toward greater conservation.
The District’s recycled water system also helps reduce potable water demand. The recycled water system provides irrigation for parks, schools, commercial and residential landscaping. The use of recycled water peaked at 71 million gallons is 2013 and averages 58-66 million gallons of water a year now.
These factors have all contributed to a significant reduction in the District’s demand on the aquifers of the Santa Margarita Groundwater Basin, helping groundwater levels stabilize.
Water use efficiency is certainly one of the elements of water supply and demand balancing, but not the only one. Equally important is supplemental supply planning and the District has been very focused on this in the last couple of decades: recycled water, stormwater LID, conjunctive use and advanced purified recycled water.
Scotts Valley Water District is constantly working to minimize water waste to protect our shared resource – groundwater – and support our community’s future. If we continue to use water wisely, the local water supply can support our community’s future.