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June 2, 2023

Scotts Valley Water District to replace failing well

Scotts Valley residents will be sippin’ on some fresh new water by the beginning of 2024 thanks to a plan to replace an existing well in May.

The old 3B Well is on the decline operationally, and the Scotts Valley Water District (SVWD) is preparing to dig out the failing well and install a new one to better serve their ratepayers. SVWD General Manager David McNair says he’s ready to bring some clarity to the process.

While the existing well did its job when it was first installed, the well is in decline due to the way it was constructed. Corrosion issues have drastically decreased the amount of water drawn from it, and McNair says they have had similar issues with other wells that have been replaced. 

“Old wells were constructed of mild steel with stainless steel screens which created an electrolysis reaction that accelerated corrosion,” McNair said.

All new wells are constructed with stainless steel, and the raw water drawn from underground is run through a treatment plant that removes particles, ensuring that there are no health risks to the end users.

The Scotts Valley Water District has a series of five active wells with one in reserve, and three of them draw from the higher aquifer within the district’s borders.

The new well, along with the existing Orchard Run Well, draws from Lompico and the deeper aquifer called the Butano, which is part of the Santa Margarita Groundwater Agency (SMGWA). (While the current 3B Well reaches a depth of 1,700 feet, the new Sucinto Well will venture 1,500 feet underground.)

That deeper aquifer holds a lot of water, so McNair’s team is trying to balance where the water is drawn from.

“This well is shallower than the one that’s being replaced, which is still very deep. Water from the Butano Well is challenging water to treat and requires filtration through a carbon filter system. With the gas being stripped by the carbon filter, it makes using that water more challenging, although it is a very reliable and abundant source,” McNair said.

While the SMGWA is a shared water source for multiple agencies, no one else from the region pumps from that aquifer.

McNair said the depth of local aquifers determines when and where wells are placed. With existing well depths ranging from 460 feet to 1,700 feet, the Butano Well will draw from a different layer of the aquifer.

In terms of impact to residents, McNair said a mailer went out to a few hundred customers within the project site, warning them to prepare for periods of 24-hour noise. 

“When you’re drilling, there is always a period where you have to keep drilling until you’re done,” explained McNair. “Wells can collapse around drilling equipment, so we need to get to the bottom and get the casing in, and do it in one fell swoop.”

McNair said there will be a period of three to four weeks where 24-hour drilling will be the norm, but the district is undertaking precautions to mitigate the impact on local residents. “We will have a sizeable sound wall installed before the work starts. Our staff are asking anyone impacted by the work to contact us if the noise is unbearable.”

McNair said most of the affected houses are fairly spread out with only a few that are close to the drilling site.

“We’ve learned that most people prefer not to leave their homes, but we will look at all potential options to reduce the negative impact of the work on our ratepayers,” he said.

In terms of the duration of work, drilling is just one part of it, and that will encompass the 24-hour cycle. 

“Actual construction of the well and the pump testing will be done during daylight hours and will hopefully have a marginal impact on residents. The entire process is set to take eight to 10 months,” McNair said.

SVWD customers won’t need to worry about a loss of water during the well installation, as the district uses its established intertie system with San Lorenzo Valley Water District to supplement water needs in emergency situations. Those same customers also won’t see a rise in their monthly bill since the project was identified during the last rate hearing. 

With a price tag of nearly $1.7 million, it’s all for the betterment of the district.

McNair said he’s excited to finally get this project done. “It will result in a great benefit for our customers and the district, and it should last for a long time.”

Christina Wise
Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.


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