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From Highlights from A Conservation Blueprint

More than 850 miles of waterways – creeks, streams, and rivers – thread their way through Santa Cruz County, the way blood vessels lace our body. Water is a life force. We drink it, bathe in it, and play in it – and it nourishes all the life around us. Redwoods, oaks, wildflowers, birds, coyotes, crops, the starfish clinging to shore rocks – every living thing in our county is nourished by water. Unlike many California counties, Santa Cruz County imports virtually no water from beyond its borders. Our water destiny – our problems and solutions – is entirely in our hands.

The county’s mountainous geology provides the setting for an abundance of streams and rivers that drain into the Bay or into the county’s three major underground aquifers. These aquifers provide 80% of the water used in the county and all of them are overdrafted – more water is taken out each year than is being replenished. The county’s surface water supplies are often insufficient during droughts and in the late summer to meet demand for drinking water and to support fish. As demand grows over the next 25 years, surface water shortages are projected to become the norm even during average rainfall years. The Blueprint recommends numerous actions to help address this growing gap between water supply and water demand.

The quality of our water supply is also threatened. Saltwater intrusion in the Pajaro Valley threatens the county’s agriculture economy. Virtually every stream in the county suffers to some degree from degraded water quality. Thirty-two water bodies in the county are currently listed or proposed for listing as failing to meet state water quality standards. All of this polluted water flows into the Monterey Bay, a place so rich in marine life that it has been declared a national marine sanctuary.

Land Conservation Tools and Water
Numerous federal, state, and local agencies share responsibility for maintaining water supply and water quality in the county. The Blueprint surveys the extensive work of these agencies and focuses its recommendations on how land conservation can help protect water supplies and water quality. Its recommendations include:

  • Protect water supply and water quality through acquisition, easements, or stewardship incentives on critical watershed lands, streams, wetlands and natural recharge areas.
  • Secure locations for Managed Aquifer Recharge projects through acquisition or easements.
  • Use stewardship incentives to encourage landowners to reduce agriculture water use and improve water quality.
  • Utilize the Land Trust’s Watsonville Slough Farms to demonstrate techniques to protect water quality, reduce water use, and increase aquifer recharge.

Download map: Water Resources Issues of Santa Cruz County (pdf, 8.1MB)

More about the Conservation Blueprint