During a tense water board meeting at the beginning of the month, the Davis City Council approved raking up water costs for Davis residents to fund an alternative water supply. Many residents oppose any increase in the cost of water, but the city believes that it will be the best decision long term.
“The new supply gets us off of [our current] 100 percent reliance on ground water. It’s environmentally and fiscally unsustainable for a community of 65,000 to be over-tapping a groundwater basin with ever-decreasing quality,” said Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza, in an e-mail.
The rate increase would see the average single-family residential customers monthly cost of water go from $35 to $68 a month by 2017. This is an increase of 14 percent each year. There may also be a sixth year added.
“Honestly speaking, rents will likely rise some as landlords gradually pass on their increased costs to students. As this happens, landlords will likely pay much closer attention to encouraging students to conserve water,” Krovoza said, when asked whether or not these changes will affect Davis students. “I do hope students support the city spending what’s needed to comply with environmental standards. You can’t be for the environment and then not want to pay for such.”
Approximately 4,700 residents, over 25 percent of all those who pay taxes, were crammed inside City Council Chambers on Sept. 9 to weigh in on whether the cost of water should rise. Despite opposition to the increases, Krovoza remains insistent that they are because of the already rising cost of discharging wastewater from water treatment facilities.
“Davis faces increased wastewater discharge requirements before we discharge our water into the Yolo Bypass east of Davis,” Krovoza said. “Davis can meet these environmental discharge requirements in a much more cost-effective manner if we have clean surface water coming in from the Sacramento River.”
Much of the conflict lies in differing opinions about whether or not Davis residents really want to pay more for the water. Davis currently pulls its drinking water from groundwater sources with a high concentration of minerals, which can cause buildup in appliances and generally poor taste. The increased in cost for water will cover the $325 million dollar plan to pipe in water to Davis and Woodland from Conway Ranch.
Davis is only responsible for $155 million of the total cost, with Woodland covering the rest.
Many Davis citizens are taking action against these new measures. Jared Fox, an undeclared sophomore, said that he wouldn’t like to see rates increase and add even more to the plethora of expenses in a student’s life.
“I think it’s especially unfair to raise rates on students, as we all ready face the expenses of rent, text books and tuition,” Fox said. “I don’t see why we should have to raise the price on a basic necessity such as water unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Dianna Jensen, Davis’ principal civil engineer, believes these changes are necessary. As principal civil engineer she is in charge of making sure Davis’s water facilities are running smoothly and safely, a job she said would become more difficult if action is not taken soon.
“Reliability with water is the ability to use multiple sources so we can switch between them in case one has an issue,” Jensen said at the forum.
In Jensen’s opinion, these hikes are simply the only option as the issues with Davis’s current system are here to stay, while the opportunity to fix them at an inexpensive rate by partnering with Woodland is temporary.
“Our wells currently have issues with hexavalent chromium which may no longer meet standards after there is a reassessment in two years,” Jensen said. “We don’t want to look back in 10 years and think that we didn’t handle it right.”
However, it seems that the words of officials like Jensen and Clarke will not be enough to quash the resistance against these rate hikes, as Davis citizens have petitioned to receive an extra 30 days to collect more signatures opposing the changes.
“I don’t know how much healthier this new water will be, but if it is significantly better for you then I have to say I might reconsider,” Fox said. “You can’t put a price on your health. I don’t really mind the taste of water as long as it’s not unhealthy for you.”
Krovoza begs to differ, believing the bottom line is that Davis needs these changes and that they won’t be as much of an offense on our wallets as they might seem.
“The idea of going to surface water is a much more efficient system than our current broken one of repairing our many wells. The cost increases will only be about $1.50 per month for a student living with 3 roommates in a single family home,” Krovoza said. “I hope students don’t buy the argument that rates will go up and not ask whether there are good reasons for such. There are.”
AARON WEISS can be reached email@example.com.