The Davis City Council decided at their Jan. 24 meeting to allow City of Davis residents to finalize what direction the surface water project should take.
In September 2009, the City of Woodland and City of Davis created a joint powers authority called the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency (WDCWA). According to the WDCWA, it implements and oversees the regional surface water supply project.
The main debate centering on the water project is the cost. Additionally, there is the question of whether surface water is needed by 2016.
“Both cities [Woodland and Davis] will need to raise water rates significantly to support this project,” said Principal Civil Engineer of the Davis Public Works Department Dianna Jensen in an e-mail. “The city attempted to raise rates last fall and the council did pass a five-year rate plan [Proposition 218], but repealed these rates on Dec. 20 after receiving a water rate referendum on Oct. 24.”
The city council will put a measure on the November general election ballot. The ballot measure is still being drafted by the council.
As of now, Jensen said the expectation is to set new water rates in place by the end of 2012.
“The council directed staff to initiate a new rate study and the formation of a Water Advisory Committee that is tasked with review of the rate study and of the surface water project components,” Jensen said. “The scope of work for the rate study will be before the Water Advisory Committee at their Feb. 9 meeting.”
The current timeline of the water project is to have adopted water rates in effect by January 2013. Jensen said Woodland needs surface water by 2016 to comply with their limit and Davis needs it between 2017 and 2022, depending on the waste water permit that will be renewed at the end of this year.
Jensen said because of the October referendum, the city council acknowledged that residents would like a vote.
“There is a whole spectrum of opinions about whether or not we need the project, whether or not we can continue to use groundwater, whether or not the rates that have been proposed are actually the right numbers,” said Deputy City Manager Kelly Stachowicz. “There are folks who say if we don’t do it now, whatever we have to do in the future will be even more expensive.”
If Davis residents decide to eradicate the surface water project, the city will reassess what to do with the current water and look at groundwater options.
“We can dig more wells and we may need to look at more treatment to water that comes out, if quality of new wells or existing wells isn’t what it was before,” Stachowicz said.
According to Stachowicz, UC Davis is on the fringes and has not committed financially to the project. UC Davis operates on a water system separate from the city’s system.
“UC Davis is a non-voting member of the WDCWA by virtue of the small volume of water the campus would take, because it contributed water rights to the agency and through agreement with the two cities,” said UC Davis Assistant Vice Chancellor Sid England in an e-mail. “The voting status of the campus would not change when we resume financial contributions to the project.”
England said if the university decides to participate in the construction and operation of the water project, it will buy in and continue to pay going forward.
“Right now, the city gets all of its water from wells, meaning we receive groundwater,” Stachowicz said. “And as the city has grown since it was first incorporated back in the 1900s, we question whether in the long-term, having these wells will still allow us to have the water we want and need for the current population.”
Stachowicz said over the past several years, some of the wells had to be shut down or receive treatment, which are considered to be costly ventures. In response, the City of Davis has been looking at surface water coming from the Sacramento River.
“Surface water isn’t necessarily more beneficial than groundwater,” Stachowicz said. “It’s just from a different source. Right now, our groundwater is untreated, nice and clean.”
The groundwater Davis currently uses is hard water, with surface water being of a different composition that contains fewer mineral deposits.
“One of the hopes is that the water won’t be as hard,” Stachowicz said.
CLAIRE TAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.