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Our History

While this graph represents pumping from Soquel Creek Water District only, it is expected that the graph reflects overall conditions in the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin (Basin).  These issues has been further defined and addressed by the Basin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).

100% of the water in the mid-Santa Cruz county region comes from rainfall that percolates under the ground and eventually becomes groundwater. While the City of Santa Cruz receives about 90-95% of their water from surface water captured from streams and rivers, all of the other local water municipalities (and private well owners) in our region from 41st Avenue to La Selva Beach rely on groundwater. Based on analysis by hydrologists, the Mid-County groundwater area has been overpumped since the mid 1980's.  In order to sustain the basin, this 30+year deficit needs to be made up to restore water levels that will protect against seawater intrusion.

History and Timeline

Timeline of local groundwater management activities in the Santa Cruz Mid-County region:

  • 1967- USGS Report (Hickey) described the Soquel-Aptos Basin as two separate basins: Purisima Formation and Aromas Red Sands and concludes that up to 7,700 acre-feet of water per year could be extracted for Soquel Creek Water District's use and there is no evidence of seawater intrusion in the wells along the coast.
  • 1976-1977 - Severe drought conditions occured.
  • 1977- USGS Report (Muir) concludes that the basin's sustainable yield for Soquel Creek Water District should be lowered from 7,700 afy to 4,000 afy and that seawater intrusion is starting to occur.
  • 1979- Soquel Creek Water District declared a water emergency and passed Ordinance 80-1 which implemented a water service connection moratorium.
  • 1981- Report by Luhdorff and Scalmaninini Consulting concludes that neither aquifer is in overdraft and there is no seawater intrusion occuring in the coastal wells.  Moratorium is lifted in October 1981 with recommendations to develop an extensive coastal monitoring program
  • 1981- Soquel Creek Water District initiates a monitoring well system to detect, measure, and monitor water levels and water quality of the groundwater at the coastline. There are now over 80 monitoring wells in 25 different locations to measure chlorides, general minerals, total dissolved solids and static water levels.
  • 1995 -  Soquel Creek Water District and Central Water District enter into a Joint Exercise of  Powers Agreement (JPA) which includes private well representation to develop a Groundwater Management Plan
  • 1996- Initial Soquel-Aptos Groundwater Management Plan (GMP) is adopted.
  • 1997- Soquel Creek Water District establishes a Public Advisory Committee to develop recommendations  regarding water demand and supply. Efforts conclude that (1) the aquifers are in a state of overdraft and (2) water conservation be maximized and  a supplemental water supply would be needed to stabalize coastal water levels and meet projected water demands.
  • 2005 and 2006- The City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District both, after years of study, adopt Integrated Water Plans that identify seawater desalination as a new source of supply to compliment conservation as a means to address groundwater overdraft and lack of water during drought periods.
  • 2007 - An updated AB3030 Groundwater Management Plan is adopted that supercedes the 1996 GMP.  This updated version establishes protective water levels needed to keep a positive gradient of freshwater outflow to the ocean to prevent seawater intrusion from moving inland and outlines programmatic activities to achieve basin sustainability (such as a well master plan, increased conservation, supporting recharge efforts, and the development of a seawater desalination project).  Annual Review and Reports are to be generatd to serve as  up-to-date reports to compliment the GMP.
  • 2009- JPA formally establishes the Basin Implementation Group (BIG) to provide continued oversight on groundwater management activities under the GMP.
  • 2011- Impementation of Soquel Creek Water District's Well Master Plan which redistributes pumping away from the coast and allows for a more uniform drawdown of groundwater.  New wells at O’Neill Ranch and Cunnison Lane Well sites in Soquel, and Austrian Way and Granite Way-Aptos Village Well sites in Aptos) DO NOT add additional pumping demand for Soquel Creek Water District; this allows for wells closer to the coast to be pumped much less.
  • 2013- JPA adopts Second Amendment which elaborates on the private well appointment and terms.
  • 2013- The City of Santa Cruz pulls out of the joint desalination project with the Soquel Creek Water District.  Project was scheduled to be on-line in 2017.  Soquel Creek Water District begins looking at other options for a new source of water to address groundwater overdraft of the basin.
  • 2014- Cooperative Groundwater Pumping Agreement between the City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District.
  • 2014- Soquel Creek Water District completes 13-month evaluation of a new supplemental water supply option and identifies groundwater replenishment using purified recycled water to further evaluate.  Soquel Creek Water District also wants to evaluate the potential of  excess winter water transfers from the City of Santa Cruz  and desalination from Moss Landing as  back-up options.
  • 2014- Groundwater Model efforts begin.  
  • 2014 - State of California passes landmark legislation (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act) which mandates groundwater basins throughout the state be managed and sustainable by 2040-2042.
  • 2014-2015-  City of Santa Cruz undergoes evaluation of water supply options to meet shortfalls due to drought conditions and habitat restrictions. Recommendations from this effort are presented to the City Council in November 2015.  Priority is for evaluation of winter surface water transfers to neighboring Districts for increased groundwater storage.  
  • 2014-2015 - Soquel Creek Water District, Central Water District, and County of Santa Cruz host Mid-County Groundwater Stakeholder Meetings.
  • 2015 - County of Santa Cruz adopts ordinances to prohibit inefficient water use throughout the County and to require measurement and reporting of monthly water use by all small water systems with 5-199 connections.
  • 2015 - Basin Implementation Group expands the group to include 2 elected officials from the City of Santa Cruz, 2 elected officials from County of Santa Cruz, and three private well representatives. Formally changes its name to the Soquel Aptos Groundwater Management Committee.
  • 2015-16- After six months of collaboration, a new JPA creates the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency (MGA), with the intention of becoming the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for the Basin.
  • 2016 - A basin boundary modification is submitted to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to merge and modify four Bulletin 118 basins into one basin, the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin.  
  • 2016 - The MGA begins a multi-year planning process in the fall to develop the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).
  • 2017 - The MGA Board selects a GSP Advisory Committee made up of 13 members. The members of the committee represent identified water interests in our shared groundwater Basin.
  • 2017-19 - The GSP Advisory Committee developed the Sustainable Management Criteria required to define sustainability in the GSP.
  • 2018 - The Groundwater Model for the Basin was completed.
  • 2019 - The Draft GSP was received by the MGA Board in July. 
  • 2019 - Public comments on the Draft GSP were received by the MGA Board in September.
  • 2019 - Following a public hearing, the MGA Board adopted the Basin GSP in November.
  • 2020 - The Basin GSP was submitted to DWR in January. 
  • 2020 - The Basin GSP was posted to the DWR portal in February.
  • 2020 - The DWR public comment period on the Basin GSP is open through June 3, 2020.