Will Santa Cruz someday be the home of brown lawns and four-minute showers?
That's the vision portrayed by opponents of a desalination plant in Santa Cruz. It was the big debate Thursday night at First Congregational Church in Santa Cruz, as two advocates and two opponents of the Santa Cruz-Soquel Creek Water plan for desal locked horns.
It was low-key by Santa Cruz public-hearing standards, but opponents of desal definitely made their voice heard as the debate went through its paces. The debate comes down to this: proponents (here's their website) say it's too risky not to bring a new water supply on board before the next drought; opponents (here's their website) say water conservation would be enough.
Desal proponents were Mike Rotkin, the former mayor, and Toby Goddard, the city Water Department's main man on conservation. They say that Santa Cruz already conserves twice as much as most cities in California -- and further efforts won't be enough. The opponents were Rick Longinotti and Jan Bentley, who formerly served in the city's Water Department.
The biggest applause of the night came when Longinotti endorsed the idea of a citywide vote. But a little later he told the audience that there's nothing wrong with limiting showers to four minutes and letting lawns die.
I'm not sure that's going to win an election. Desal opponents were vocal. But if it comes down to voters, the result might be different. After all, who's going to enforce the four-minute shower?
What's the smartest option -- proceed or don't proceed? Here's what most good leaders take into account when making a decision. What's the worst that could happen? The answer is no contest: if pro-desal opponents are wrong, there'll still be plenty of water. That's good. If anti-desal people are wrong -- the lack of water causes a whole host of problems. That's not good.