Water Shortage Emergency in Santa Cruz Continues: Customers Asked to Cut Back

Jan 9, 2017

Stormy weather continues to cause problems across the Monterey Bay, including a drinking water shortage in Santa Cruz. It has now been 24 hours since the city asked residents and businesses to cut back on water use after the storm damaged critical water infrastructure.

Santa Cruz Water Department Director Rosemary Menard walks around the Graham Hill Water Treatment Plant just outside Santa Cruz city limits. She explains what treatment bays are.

“These are the places where the water is just coming in and it’s being pre-treated with a flocculent to take the big particles out,” Menard says.

The majority of Santa Cruz’s drinking water comes from the San Lorenzo River and area streams.  It’s treated at the plant before it gets to your tap. But during big storms, much of it becomes too dirty to clean. That’s when the city relies on Loch Lomond Reservoir. But during recent storms, the pipeline between the reservoir and this treatment plant sprung a major leak.

“So we had to shut that supply down,” says Menard. “And we think that was caused by ground movement with so much saturated soils.”

The city is not out of water, but Menard says they don’t have enough to meet current demand. On Monday, the water department started asking customers to cut back usage by 30 percent.

“Particularly it’s a short-term request to ask people to defer any kinds of things like laundry, or running the dishwasher. Take really short showers, just over these next few days while we get this pipe repaired and back in service,” Menard says.

Inside Gabriella Café in downtown Santa Cruz, owner Paul Cocking says they’ve always been water conscious because of the drought and the expense of water.

“As far as washing dishes and customers drinking water, which are the main sources of water use here, a 30 percent reduction would be hard to achieve,” Cocking says.

Still, he’ll try here at the cafe and at home. Rosemary Menard says if people don’t try -

“Then it really does put the system at risk from the point of view, for example, being able to have enough water for firefighting if we had a fire,” Menard says.

Water customers are asked to cut back until the repair is complete. Menard says that could take until Monday.