Many water districts in Santa Cruz County are enacting restrictions in response to drought.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

A Santa Cruz County drought conditions update: How are water restrictions affecting you?

Use the interactive map to see where your water comes from and learn about water restrictions in your area.

With the Scotts Valley Water District declaring a Stage 2 water shortage Wednesday, four of Santa Cruz County’s seven water districts are now under some form of water restrictions as drought conditions worsen across California.

“This isn’t just the drought, this is climate change,” said Sierra Ryan, the county’s interim water resources manager. “This is the new way things are going to be.”

Indeed, Ryan said, “Most agencies are in the same situation they were in last year, in terms of their drought restrictions. Really, not much changes [in Santa Cruz County] year to year in terms of our situation.”

That’s because all the county’s water agencies, with the exception of the city of Santa Cruz, rely on groundwater basins.

It takes time for rain to percolate through the ground, so these underground aquifers fill and empty gradually, over longer time periods than above-ground reservoirs. The need for conservation doesn’t depend as much on a particular wet or dry year, more on long-term trends of how much water is coming out versus going in.

Unfortunately, the basins have been overdrafted for years, and as we enter the second dry year in a row, conservation is more important than ever.

“Water use efficiency should be your way of life,” Ryan said, especially as climate change intensifies pressure on water resources. This is the second period of drought in Santa Cruz within the past decade. California was officially in a drought for much of the 2010s, with one stretch lasting from Dec. 27, 2011, to March 5, 2019.

Fortunately, Santa Cruzans have already made big changes to their water use.

“We have some of the most efficient water use in the state,” Ryan said. “We’re in a much better position than we were going into the last drought, just because people are so much more efficient with our water that our storage levels are higher.”

Santa Cruz is relatively unique among California counties in that it relies entirely on local water sources; San Francisco, for example, gets the majority of its water pumped in from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which collects snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada.

If you want to know exactly where your water comes from, and what kind of restrictions you might or might not be under, this map (courtesy of the Water Conservation Coalition of Santa Cruz County) will identify the district that serves your home. Lookout has collected information on what restrictions are in place for each district and how they affect you.

Enter your address to find your water district (map courtesy of the Water Conservation Coalition of Santa Cruz County):

Has your district enacted water restrictions this year?

City of Santa Cruz Water Department

Restrictions: Yes, Stage 1 water shortage warning.
What it means for you: According to the district website, each customer will receive a “monthly allotment of water, which will be reflected on their water bill.” This allotment will be 5 ccf (centum cubic feet, or 100 cubic feet of water) for most single-family households, and according to the district, the current average monthly water use for a single-family residential account in the district is 6 ccf. No penalties are enforced for exceeding allotments under a Stage 1 water shortage warning.
To report water waste: 831-420-LEAK (5325) or

Scotts Valley Water District

Restrictions: Yes, Stage 2 water shortage.
What it means for you: According to the district website, customers are “asked to water outdoors not more than two times a week.” The district will also make a recycled-water fill station available to customers for irrigation one day per week beginning in June; a schedule will be available at Additionally, outdoor pools must covered when not in use, and commercial customers such as restaurants and hotels are asked to reduce their consumption.
To report water waste: Leave an anonymous tip, with details, here.

Soquel Creek Water District

Restrictions: Yes. Soquel Creek Water District has been in Stage 3 since 2014 because of the district’s long-term issues with groundwater supply and seawater intrusion. The Pure Water Soquel Project, which will purify wastewater from the city of Santa Cruz to drinking water standards and use that to refill the groundwater basin, is now underway.

What it means for you: According to the district website, most households should try to use 50 gallons per person per day. Car washing must be done in an efficient manner, which means either using a recycled-water carwash (preferred) or “a waterless spray, a bucket and hose with an automatic shutoff nozzle, and/or a pressure washer. All methods should minimize water running off of the property.” Washing the exterior of buildings is not allowed unless it’s for sanitation purposes or to prepare for painting.
To report water waste: 831-475-8500 or (include details such as the time and location).

San Lorenzo Valley Water District

Restrictions: Yes, Stage 2 water restrictions.
What it means for you: The district is “requesting a voluntary reduction of outdoor usage by 10%-20%.” Watering will be allowed two days a week and is limited to “15 minutes per station per assigned day.” Washing building exteriors is prohibited unless the property is going to be painted or sold.
To report water waste: Fill out the online form here.

City of Watsonville

Restrictions: No.
To report water waste: 831-768-3133 or (include details such as the time and location).

Central Water District

Restrictions: No.
To report water waste: 831-688-2767

Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency

Restrictions: No.
To report water waste: 831-722-9292

Private wells and small water systems

Restrictions: No.
To report water waste: Contact Santa Cruz County Environmental Health Services at 831-454-2145.