Santa Cruz has joined the list of cities attempting to accommodate growth within the reality of limited water supplies. The University of California in Santa Cruz (UCSC) wants to expand their campus but the Santa Cruz Water Department (SCWD) can not accommodate campus growth while supplying water to it residents and the region’s rivers and streams. City supplies are so stretched that conservation is already mandatory in dry years and the expansion would restrict water supplies an additional 2 to 3 percent in drought years. At the root of Santa Cruz’s decision is the question cities are considering all around the state: Where will we find water to grow?
Santa Cruz and other cities looking for ways to accommodate growth have an option that is often overlooked: they can make the development water neutral. In order to achieve neutrality, this type of development utilizes the best water efficiency fixtures and landscape design to minimize water waste. Then the developer offsets the leftover water demand by investing in programs to improve conservation and/or water reuse elsewhere in the community to reach net zero. It’s the 21st Century, and water efficient technologies and building design is advancing each day, making it possible for new households to use much less than 192 gallons per person/day – the average use in California (Australia uses: 100 gallons per capita daily) . Water neutral development is way the UCSC can expand its campus to accommodate 4,000 new students without sacrificing the water supply of the city of Santa Cruz or its natural surroundings.