Responding to 2015 water emergency

City and statewide water emergency

Photo of Loch Lomand reservoir

Loch Lomond Reservoir, shown in January 2014, is as low as it's been since 1991. (photo by Judie Cole)

The amount of water stored for use in the City of Santa Cruz's water service area has been significantly reduced by successive years of below-normal rainfall in the local area.

At its April 22, 2014 meeting, the City Council confirmed that mandatory rationing in the city's water service area will begin on May 1, 2014. On April 14, 2015, the Santa Cruz City Council declared a Stage 3 Water Shortage Emergency for the second year in a row, which requires significant action by the community to reduce system-wide water use by 25 percent, to avoid using the limited water in storage at the Loch Lomond Reservoir.

The current drought is affecting all of California. With California facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in January proclaimed a State of Emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for these drought conditions. Read more about the governor's declaration. Additionally, on April 1, 2015, the governor announced actions that will save water, increase enforcement to prevent wasteful water use, streamline the state's drought response and invest in new technologies that will make California more drought resilient. 

Reducing our water consumption

With the city's Stage 3 Water Emergency taking effect on May 1, 2014, UCSC has been asked to reduce overall water consumption by nearly 25 percent, beginning then and continuing through 2015.

In response, UCSC students and staff individually — and in groups — are pitching in to help. Please see this page for more information.

UCSC has also established a campuswide Water Shortage Working Group that is meeting regularly throughout this emergency to evaluate current usage, examine strategies to reduce water use, identify and prioritize short-term conservation projects, and ensure compliance with water restrictions for the 2015 drought. City water conservation staff have also met with this group.

As part of this effort, the campus is in the process of:

  • Establishing water-use targets for nine specific types of campus users.
  • Providing more regular water-use data to key water users.
  • Raising awareness of the need for individuals to reduce water consumption in support of the current city crisis.
  • Reviewing a number of projects that, if implemented in the short term, would contribute to the conservation efforts.

Key campus stakeholders, including the managers and operational staff that oversee irrigation, are included in the group and are currently identifying the short-term projects that can help the campus meet the mandated water rationing levels. Units across campus had already undertaken a number of initiatives before the City Council's declaration in February; since then, numerous projects that could be implemented on a 1- to 3-month timeline have been proposed and are currently being considered.

  • Initiatives implemented as of February 2014 include:
    • Reducing or eliminating irrigation in the following areas: faculty/staff housing landscape and other campus ornamental lawns, landscape plants, and playing fields
    • Installing low-flow aerators on all kitchen and restroom faucets in dining halls
    • Giving maintenance priority to any reported water leaks, including HVAC mechanical systems
  • New short-term activities already identified:
    • Monitor and report water use to users
    • Reduce athletic tennis court washings
    • Develop water use educational materials for campus residents
    • Prioritize water conservation education to upcoming summer conference guests
    • Prioritize replacement of plumbing fixtures to low flow fixtures

Members of the working group include: Sarah Angulo, Chris Attias, John Barnes, Steve Davenport, Elida Erickson, Roger Edberg, Jessica Fiske Bailey, Brett Hall, Todd Hammonds, Scott Hernandez-Jason, Clinton Jeffries, Alisa Klaus, Kevin Losik, Daniel Miceli, Lacey Raak, Joyce Rice, Henry Salameh, Randolph Skrovan, Silas Snyder, Patrick Testoni, John Thompson, Zaunna Wells, Andrea Willer, McCall Williams, and Darryl Wong. The group is convened by Dean Fitch.

How will the campus know if it is meeting or exceeding the target

  • Regular monitoring of all campus water meters and communication of data to water users in order to adjust water usage practices as needed.