SOQUEL -- Conservation and adaptation are the two ways people can help ease the impact of global warming on our water supply.Daniels

That's the topic Bruce Daniels, director of the Soquel Creek Water District, is studying as he researches the impact of climate change on groundwater recharge in Santa Cruz County, Santa Rosa, Minnesota and the Tahoe area.

"It's a lot of work," Daniels, who has been working toward a doctorate in hydroclimatology at UC Santa Cruz since the spring quarter. "The reason I'm doing this is because I like to know that I'm making a difference. The challenge is to go out and help water districts understand the impacts and what they can do to help the situation."

Later this month, water officials will gather to discuss this subject at the County Government Center.

In Santa Cruz County, the wet months of the year are December through March. But as the Earth warms, the rainy months will decrease from four to two, Daniels said. And the rain that does fall will come from strong storms that produce a lot of precipitation.

"Tuesday was a great analogue to that," he said of last week's strong storm. "We received 4 inches of rain. Normal for October is less than half an inch. That's the prediction for the future -- bigger storms, more flooding and erosion."

The bigger the storm, the more runoff there is and the less water that soaks into the ground and recharges the aquifer that provides some of the county with water for drinking and bathing, Daniels said.

"This will have a large impact," he said.

It's an impact that weighs heavily on the minds of water distributors nationwide, said Daniels. Earlier this month, he presented his theory at a National Groundwater Association conference on the subject in Colorado.

On Oct. 28, a similar summit will be held in the county Board of Supervisors chamber, said Betsy Herbert, environmental analyst for the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. At 5 p.m., the county's commission on the environment will highlight the collaborative effort water districts have countywide in trying to address climate change and water supplies, said Herbert, a member of that commission.

"In Santa Cruz County, we don't import water from anywhere else," she said. "It all comes from local aquifers and forested watersheds. We must take care of them."

Taking care of groundwater supplies should be everyone's mission, said Herbert and Daniels. Water districts use electricity to pump water out of the ground. If customers used less water, it would mean less water to pump and distribute, which would then save power and reduce the impact on global warming, they said.

What's more, water consumers who use water from their own wells must realize that everyone is using the same aquifer, whether they are a water district customer or not.

"If the water drops too low, then nobody has water," Herbert said.