Affordable drinking water is our right. During the summer of 2011, the Davis City Council passed a motion to increase the utility rates by 250 percent or more in the next five years. The raised water and sewage fees would be directed toward funding a new water treatment plant to provide surface water from the Sacramento River to Davis and Woodland. While the project has been proposed for over a decade, the swift decision made by the City Council to raise the rates was both deceptive and undemocratic.
There is a great deal of controversy over the proposed construction of the $325 million plant including the degrading effects on the river, unequal distribution of the water, and urban expansion into farmland surrounding the city. The most immediate consequence will be the higher water rates, felt most directly by low-income families and students.
The experts are still out on potential alternatives. The surface water project is a bi-partisan issue, with progressives and conservatives vehemently fighting on both sides of the debate. It is a complex proposal with many stakeholders including the engineers and land developers with millions of dollars on the line. However, this is not some distant legislation. The new water system will affect every Davis citizen, warranting their inclusion in the decision-making process. As of yet, there has been minimal dialogue between the city council and the citizens of Davis. However, there is a great deal of neutral information on the internet. I implore the student community to get informed and have their voice heard.
The city council is confident in their proposal for the surface water treatment plant. They have repeated publicly that this is the only option for safe and secure water in Davis. However, it is clear by the large number of signatures that have been collected in protest to the water project that the citizens of Davis are not convinced. I ask then, why the city council does not allow for this to be decided on by a vote of the people. If they are so certain about the necessity of the project, it is their responsibility to get everyone in support.
The primary concern right now is overturning the decision to go ahead with the construction of the plant, and the accompanying rate increases to Davis residents. As concerned citizens, we are demanding democratization of the decision to increase the utility rates and transparency of further City Council action on the matter. The first step toward defending our rights to affordable water is to acquire 4,500 signatures of Davis voters for a referendum on the fee increases. Signing the referendum is not giving support for or against the water project. It is holding city council responsible for including its citizens in the development of big public works projects.
Fifth-year international relations major