Accomodating and Limiting Growth
Transition Santa Cruz wants to promote the understanding that every geographical area has a “carrying capacity”, a limit to human consumption of natural resources. Consumption beyond that limit damages nature’s ability to support a human population. That is as true for consumption of water as it is for consumption of topsoil or forests.
Our water use is limited by our ability to harvest a portion of the rain that falls in our county without causing undue harm to the natural life in our watershed. We cannot grow our demand infinitely. We think you will agree that at some point, growth in water consumption needs to cease. As this report indicates, the evidence from hydro-geologists as well as fisheries biologists is that Santa Cruz and Mid-County have already passed a point of sustainable water use of aquifers and streams. The community therefore needs to take action to reduce its water use to sustainable levels. We can also investigate additional sustainable water sources. Even if the community decides to develop additional water sources, we should reduce our water consumption to sustainable levels pending that development.
Transition Santa Cruz invites your feedback on the following steps towards a community policy on sustainable water use and growth.
1. Achieving sustainable water use immediately: The local water agencies, in conjunction with community groups, should launch a water conservation campaign with the goal of achieving:
• Sustainable aquifer use (Soquel Creek Water District)
• Optimal drought reserves in Loch Lomond Reservoir, and reduced water diversion from streams that support habitat for federally listed fish species. (Santa Cruz)
2. Policy on growth:
• Water-neutral development: Until such time as sustainable water use is attained, any new development in the water service area should be fully offset by permanent replacement of water-thirsty fixtures and landscapes in existing development.
• Water credits for affordable housing: Transition Santa Cruz considers it a necessity for the Santa Cruz workforce to be able to live near their work. Otherwise greenhouse gas emissions from transportation will continue to rise, and low paid workers will see their income eroded by rising fuel prices. As the City and Soquel Creek District achieve reductions in water demand through conservation programs, water credits should be set aside for affordable housing units. This policy is a state requirement in areas with limited water.
• Criteria for new water supply projects: Any new water supply projects (e.g. making use of winter flows) must meet criteria for sustainability. Approval of any new supply projects needs to be conditioned on a commitment to restoring aquifers and healthy fish habitat and maintaining optimal reservoir levels. Any additional water available beyond those purposes would be available for growth.
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