Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz spending big chunk of money on drought

City plans to hire 15 new employees to manage drought-related issues

Santa Cruz spending $700,000 to fight drought

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - The City of Santa Cruz plans to spend a big chunk of change over the next few months to fight the drought.  About $700,000 to be exact.  The city said plans to use that money to hire 15 people to help manage the drought plan.  That's for positions in conservation, administration, production and meter readings.

Part of the money is coming from the water department's current budget.  In February, Santa Cruz declared a water shortage emergency, requiring a cutback on water usage by 25 percent.

Residents in one Central Coast city will soon pay a premium for water, that's if they don't conserve.  The California drought has a choke-hold on cities around the state, including Santa Cruz.  Now the city said finding a solution to the problem will depend on help from a mixed-bag of residents. 

On Tuesday, we found out why a citizen's committee, tasked with finding new sources of water, plans to take a balanced approach to finding more water for the future. 

"It was the same old players that brought desalination to Santa Cruz that would be consultants for this new committee, that's supposed to consider alternatives and we expected there might be some bias," said Rick Longinotti, with SC Desal Alternatives.

Rick Longinotti, one of the 14 people chosen by the city of Santa Cruz, is working on the new water supply advisory committee.  He said the city initially planned to pay up to $350,000 for consultants with a background primarily in desalination.  We spoke with Mayor Lynn Robinson who says the city backed off that plan, to give the committee a chance to discuss the issue.  Longionotti said finding a solution to the city's dwindling water supply, will require expertise from a wide range of alternatives.

"What I'm hoping is that the committee will define kind of what their areas of interest are and you know do we need a consultant about water rights issues?  Do we need a consultant about recycled water?" Longinotti said.

The city recently put its plan to move forward with a desalination project on hold, allowing the public to weigh in on other ideas.  One of the options is to use water that ends up right here, in the San Lorenzo River.  Longionotti said sharing that water with neighboring water districts like Soquel Creek, would allow Santa Cruz to get help down the line.

"They're 100 percent well water, Santa Cruz is almost 100 percent surface water.  There's a natural collaboration there," Longinotti said.

Santa Cruz's water committee plans to discuss what kind of consultants will work best over the next month.    

"It needs some technical support, people who can evaluate options from groundwater, recycling water," Longinotti said.

Santa Cruz said it's hoping to have a plan for a new water supply by this same time next year. 

Water rationing is set to start May 1.   

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