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Civil Grand Jury Urges Santa Cruz County Desalination Plant, Warns Of Environmental Disaster From Drought

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(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SANTA CRUZ (KCBS) – A civil grand jury is sounding the alarm about severe water shortages in the Santa Cruz area, as the statewide drought continues.

A desalination plant for Santa Cruz County has been talked about and studied for years. Now, a civil grand jury said it is the only single solution to averting an environmental disaster.

Civil Grand Jury Warns Of Looming Water Problems In Santa Cruz County, Calls For Desalination Plant

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In a video, Santa Cruz Mayor Lynn Robinson said the region needs a supplemental water supply. “Our water future could include shortfalls of as high as 40 percent, and some level of mandatory water use restrictions imposed every 2-3 years,” Robinson said.

According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the city of Santa Cruz and the Soquel Creek Water District explored a Westside desalination plant, but ran into opposition from Santa Cruz neighbors. The plan received strong opposition from residents, who cited the cost to operate such a plant.

But the civil grand jury said that the city of Santa Cruz “did not adequately inform its citizens of the need for water alternatives.” An example they cited – they said the city released plant infrastructure maps that made it seem the impacts on the neighborhood were greater than likely.

Along with calling for the plant to be brought to the voters, the civil grand jury also recommended exploring interagency water transfers and recycled water.

The group Desal Alternatives, which has led opposition to the plan, said the civil grand jury failed to understand local skepticism, including the fact that electricity to run the plant is a major concern, especially in a city that could be affected by sea level rise.

Meanwhile, the city of San Diego just started construction on the largest desalination plant on the Western Hemisphere, a possible test case for the entire California coast.

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