Enjoying the rain? So are we! Recent storms have put a big dent in the drought.

Great news came from Loch Lomond this week: Tuesday’s rainstorm filled the reservoir to capacity. This is a repeat performance; it reached capacity in March 2016, for the first time in five years. The reservoir will open to the public for recreational fishing and boating on March 1st. It was closed during 2014 and 2015, due to the drought.

Water is a big part of life in Santa Cruz County. Views of the sparkling Pacific dazzle visitors as they descend Highway 17. We’re home to world class surfing at Pleasure Point and Steamer Lane. Researchers scoot across the Bay in well-equipped boats. Dramatic local encounters between kayakers and whales have gone viral.

Behind the beaches, too, water plays an important role. Most of California relies on federal and state programs for its water. By contrast, Santa Cruz County derives 95 percent of its water from rainfall and 5 percent from four groundwater basins.

Our relationship with water could not be more direct.

On a good year, winter storms send water pouring down our hillsides into a web of creeks and streams. These flow into the San Lorenzo River, Majors Creek, Laguna Creek, and Liddell Spring—all major contributors to our water supply. Loch Lomond Reservoir, created in the late 1950’s by building a dam across Newell Creek, is another important water source.

Water management is up to us. And the past few years of drought placed our water use front and center. Challenges included over-taxed groundwater basins, depleted streams, and degraded riparian habitats.

In 2013, the Water Supply Advisory Committee was formed by the City of Santa Cruz. This diverse group of residents represented a variety of interests. They met for 18 months, convened for the last time in December 2015, and handed their recommendations to the City.

As a result, new conservation programs aim to reduce demand by 200 to 250 million gallons per year by 2035. In-Lieu Water Exchanges send water from Santa Cruz Water Department to the Soquel Creek and Scotts Valley Water Departments, reducing their reliance on aquifers.

Meanwhile, the Aquifer Storage and Recovery program injects excess winter flows into our aquifers, helping to replenish them. Treatment of recycled water is being considered; and desalination, although expensive, is a distant possibility if we face continued drought.

The weather forecast, as you probably know, presents a soaking January. This weekend, we're in for a huge storm. So hang on, snuggle in at home, and maybe bake some cookies. Or, if you're brave, come on out to see our open houses. We have no objections to dripping umbrellas!