Soquel Creek breaks ground on water purification center

Dec. 15, 2021
The Pure Water Soquel Facility will produce purified water to support groundwater replenishment in a basin designated by California as critically over-drafted.

The Soquel Creek Water District in California held a groundbreaking ceremony last week, commemorating the start of construction on its Advanced Water Purification Center – the core of the district’s 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.

After keynote speeches, a group of dignitaries ceremonially turned over shovels-full of dirt to commemorate the groundbreaking.

“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. 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 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.

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