By TOM HONIG
Those of us who think that Santa Cruz County has a water crisis are witnessing a frustrating political fight over a proposed desalination plant.
What's frustrating is that the two sides aren't fighting over the same thing. The pro-desal people see it this way: "We're worried that there won't be enough water and that when the next drought hits we'll be in a real fix."
But the anti-desal people would be happy not to have enough water. They won't say so, but it goes back to an old theory -- limit services and you limit growth.
All the things that a lack of water brings are growth limiting: things like building moratoriums, fewer water hookups, increased housing costs that limit an influx of new people. And that's what a number of people want. Take for example the huge cost of developing second units, unimproved lots or even the proposed Aptos Village development out in the Soquel Creek Water District. If you don't want new people here, you say to yourself, "No new connections? Great!"
Anti-desal folks really don't want any new supply of water. Not that there's even one available -- except desal. Just try proposing a new reservoir. (In fact, doing so wouldn't even do much good; the problem Santa Cruz has is that most of its water comes from collected runoff -- and if and when there's a serious drought there won't be enoughwater no matter how many dams you build.)
Desal opponents have done nothing but attack an environmental impact report on the desal project since it came out. Wouldn't you think that at least one person might say something like: "Hmmm. Maybe the report makes sense."
It won't happen. Instead, they focus on more conservation (Santa Cruz already conserves more per capita than anywhere else around) -- and pit toilets, no lawns, fewer showers and -- yuck! -- recycling sewage runoff.
Meanwhile, Soquel Creek Water District, which unlike Santa Cruz utilizes groundwater, faces severe overdraft on its wells. Now. Today.
That's why the argument shouldn't be about growth. But that's where the anti-desal folks focus -- even though they're not saying so.