By Carrie Abel

Although the sweltering heat of summer is coming to an end, the water shortage is not disappearing in the onset of fall. Santa Cruz County plans to continue the water restrictions that have already been put into action, but there are no current arrangements for further cutbacks in the fall. Now is the time to bring the possibility of another dry winter to light.

“Oct. 1 is the start of a new water year, as far as rivers go,” said Toby Goddard, Santa Cruz’s water conservation manager.

The end of September is when the river is at its lowest, but October means the rainy season and the potential end of this year’s drought.

According to Goddard, this drought is not declared a water emergency. Although river water levels are at dangerous lows, the water department expects the worst is yet to come. They are preparing for a river flow of 10 cubic feet per second, two cubic feet less than the current flow.

There was little rain throughout California last winter, but Santa Cruz experienced one of its worst seasons to date.

“Last winter was classified as a critically dry year,” Goddard said. Santa Cruz received roughly one-half its normal rainfall, resulting in the water department’s mandatory cutbacks. Outside watering between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. was prohibited starting in May, and continued through the summer.

Mary Beth Patterson, owner of Bear Creek Country Club in Boulder Creek, worked hard to eliminate unnecessary water usage.

To make up for pool maintenance and the customers’ uncontrollable use of water, Patterson said that she only has plants that don’t require very much water, and that she simply didn’t water the lawns.

“Because of this summer’s steady temperature I haven’t had to replace much water [in the pool],” she said.

The county’s restrictions and consumers’ conscious water usage paid off. The San Lorenzo River, Santa Cruz County’s biggest water source, is running at an extreme low of 12 cubic feet per second, versus the ideal of 18 cubic feet per second for this time of year. However, thanks to heavy preparation, Felton’s Loch Lomond Reservoir, the county’s alternate recourse for water, has stayed at a healthy fill level of 84 percent.

In hopes of a wet winter, there are no plans to take more water from Loch Lomond.

“If it doesn’t rain this winter there are great chances of rationing next year,” Goddard said.	

Although this summer’s cutbacks have been successful, residents of Santa Cruz are wary of the possibility of another dry winter and further water restrictions.

Julia Kroese of Santa Cruz is already very water-conscious, but isn’t sure how her nine-person household will make further cutbacks if the drought continues. Kroese said, “We have a bucket in the sink where we collect the dirty water and we use it to water plants.” Kroese said that living in shared housing can make water conservation difficult, because controlling everyone’s water use is not possible.

As the rainy season comes forth, water conservation is still necessary. Goddard said, “We have to be planning as though it is going to be [a] dry [winter].”