Quick Take:

At inception the Soquel Creek Water District focused on flood control. Today, the District now ensures 41,000 Santa Cruz County residents maintain access to a sustainable water supply through environmentally-sensitive and economically-responsible practices.

Here in the mid-coast area, many people know that the Soquel Creek Water District provides clean, high-quality drinking water to residents in Aptos, La Selva Beach, Opal Cliffs, Rio Del Mar, Seascape, Soquel, and parts of Capitola.

But many may not realize that – despite the District’s name – the Soquel Creek Water District – does not get this water from their namesake. Not one drop!

In fact, the District’s sole source of drinking water is the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin, not the Soquel Creek. This underground basin is also shared with the City of Santa Cruz, Central Water District, small mutual water companies, and several thousand private-well owners.

Map of the groundwater basin.
The Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater basin map showing the groundwater basin boundary as well as all the users of the basin. Credit: Soquel Creek Water District

So why name the District after Soquel Creek? Formed in 1961, the District launched primarily as a local flood-control agency. Its original focus was on the Soquel Creek drainage area as it flows from the hills down into the ocean, where Capitola State Beach is now.

Ken Izant standing with the original District plaque at the District office. Ken was the Board President from 1961-1983.
Ken Izant standing with the original District plaque at the District office. Ken was the Board President from 1961-1983. Credit: Soquel Creek Water District

This came about after unusually heavy rainfall in late 1955 caused Soquel Creek to severely flood, resulting in significant damage to the unincorporated communities along the creek, and Capitola (as well as part of Santa Cruz). Equipment and facilities of the small Monterey Bay Water Company that served the area were also damaged.

This flooding led to the formation of the Soquel Creek County Water District (later the term “County” was dropped). Its early work on flood control is a much longer story! But suffice to say that the District soon evolved (starting with the purchase of the Monterey Bay Water Company) into a provider of drinking water to the expanding community.

The District’s original logo.
The District’s original logo. Credit: Soquel Creek Water District

Today, through our 16 active groundwater wells, we pump nearly 3 million gallons of fresh water each day, to serve about 41,000 residents. Besides 21,000 households, our customers include businesses, schools, churches, government offices, parks, and more.

A team of nearly 50 employees are dedicated to the District’s mission of providing a safe, high-quality, reliable, and sustainable water supply to meet the community’s present and future needs, in an environmentally-sensitive and economically-responsible manner.

The Granite Way Well.
The newest groundwater production well, the Granite Way Well. Credit: Soquel Creek Water District

But providing that water is a lot more than just pumping it out and delivering it. In addition to the core activity of operations and maintenance of our water delivery systems, the District’s staff includes people handling water conservation and education programs, customer service, finance and business services, human resources, and special projects/communications.

Plus, the District’s essential responsibility is to explore additional water supplies to ensure a sustainable water supply for the future health and vitality of the community.

Roy Sikes, Conservation Specialist.
Roy Sikes, Conservation Specialist, conducts free Water Wise home and business calls for District customers to help them use water more efficiently indoors and out. Credit: Soquel Creek Water District

This is important because the State of California has designated the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Basin as “critically overdrafted,” meaning we’re pumping out more water than the basin can naturally replenish through rainfall. This causes both a shortage of available water, (especially during a drought), and seawater moving inland and contaminating our only water supply. In fact, seawater intrusion has been documented at several locations of the groundwater basin and is continuing to move inland.

The District's education and outreach managers at an event.
The District has a robust education and outreach program and is out in the community tabling and participating in events year round. Credit: Soquel Creek Water District

The District is exploring several options to address this problem with the Community Plan—a proposed path to a reliable water supply. Visit the District’s website for more information on related programs and projects that could impact your future water supply.

Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...