Amid rain, Santa Cruz fac­ing wa­ter short­age

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FROM THE COVER - By Jenna Lyons Jenna Lyons is a San Fran­cisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: jlyons@sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @Jen­naJounro

De­spite a bar­rage of pow­er­ful storms through­out North­ern Cal­i­for­nia that brought 6.5 inches of rain and flood warn­ings to Santa Cruz in the past 10 days, the city ended up with a wa­ter short­age.

When a ma­jor reser­voir pipe­line split dur­ing a del­uge in the Santa Cruz Moun­tains on Mon­day morn­ing, city of­fi­cials found them­selves urg­ing res­i­dents to con­serve wa­ter this week. The irony is that the U.S. Drought Mon­i­tor has since de­clared the drought over in the coastal city and most of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

The city of Santa Cruz de­clared a lo­cal emer­gency Wed­nes­day as of­fi­cials rushed to re­pair the pipe­line in Henry Cow­ell Red­woods State Park, along with city in­fra­struc­ture dam­aged by the in­clement weather.

By Thurs­day, the Wa­ter Depart­ment was test­ing a sec­ond re­pair on the rup­tured 24.5-inch di­am­e­ter pipe.

“We ask that every­one con­tinue their ef­forts un­til it’s all clear,” said Eileen Cross, a spokes­woman for the Wa­ter Depart­ment.

The Santa Cruz Wa­ter Depart­ment asked its 96,000 cus­tomers to re­duce wa­ter use by 30 per­cent as city pro­duc­tion couldn’t keep up with de­mand.

The city tapped into stor­age tanks and im­ported wa­ter from the So­quel Creek Wa­ter District to fill the gap, ac­cord­ing to Deputy City Man­ager Scott Collins.

“At this point, we’re still op­er­at­ing off of our stor­age,” Collins said Thurs­day morn­ing. “We’re hope­ful this fix will hold.”

Al­though Santa Cruz re­ceives 95 per­cent of its wa­ter from sur­face runoff, when there’s storm ac­tiv­ity, wa­ter from rivers and streams is too dirt­ied from de­bris and sed­i­ment to treat. In­stead, Cross said, of­fi­cials rely nearly ex­clu­sively on wa­ter from the city’s reser­voir when storms hit.

But one of the reser­voir’s main pipe­lines, buried 10 to 12 feet in soil prone to slides and ero­sion in the Santa Cruz Moun­tains, split at a joint. Cross sus­pects the pipe gave way un­der pres­sure from the move­ment of sat­u­rated soil, she said.

Af­ter pipe­line re­pair at­tempts were un­suc­cess­ful Tues­day, the city con­tin­ued to urge wa­ter con­ser­va­tion in the form of shorter show­ers, post­pon­ing laun­dry, us­ing pa­per plates, lim­it­ing toi­let flush­ing and cur­tail­ing wa­ter use in other sim­ple house­hold tasks.

The sec­ond re­pair Wed­nes­day ap­peared to be hold­ing, but the depart­ment will need an­other day to con­tinue tests as work­ers grad­u­ally in­crease wa­ter pres­sure in the newly welded pipe.

Cross said she was “cau­tiously op­ti­mistic” the sec­ond re­pair will hold, not­ing the para­dox of a storm caus­ing a wa­ter short­age.

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