Santa Cruz seawater desalination edges forward

The Santa Cruz City Council in California, USA, unanimously agreed in the middle of March to an operational framework for sharing a desalination plant with the neighboring Soquel Creek Water District if plans are eventually approved.

For the purposes of carrying out an environmental review, the two parties envision building and operating a 2.5 MGD (9,500 m³/d) seawater reverse-osmosis desalination facility

Mayor Mike Rotkin reminded citizens that desalinating seawater for use in the city’s water system was designed to address rainwater shortages and saltwater intrusion, not support future city growth, a sensitive subject in California.

A Task Force set up in 2007 had prepared an agreement, which facilitates other investigations and tasks related to development of the project. This included items such as production scheduling, cost allocations, emergency requests for water, and arbitration procedures for handling disputes.

Some of the key agreements within the document signed by the two authorities include a priority system defining when each agency has first right to water produced at the plant, cost sharing for capital and operating costs. The agreement does not provide project approval nor does it commit the city or the district to construction of the desalination facility.