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Davis, California

Monday, June 17, 2024

Davis experiences water issues during California’s drought

At around 10 p.m. last Wednesday, Carmelo Lane experienced a water main leak due to erosion in old pipes. The leak caused street damage and required immediate attention from the Davis Police Department and the Public Works Department. The Public works department worked on fixing the leaks from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

The City of Davis is no exception when it comes to California’s drought, making water problems a constant issue on the minds of both citizens and the city workers.

“The Carmelo Lane break last week was the only one that is considered larger than normal, [it even] lifted the street up a little. Probably because of the time that it happened, people noticed it more. They’re not used to having construction in the middle of the night,” said Gary Wells, the public works water division manager.

Carmelo Lane was one of the three reported breaks last week, causing some disturbances for the residents. The noise in the middle of the night was accompanied by low water pressure for the residents as the problem was being fixed. However, there was no damage to the water quality or the neighborhood’s water bills.

The water main leaks are a result of the pipes developing external corrosion over time.  Once the outside of a pipe erodes, it begins to thin out the materials of the pipe, causing holes and eventually breakage.

“Our systems vary in age, with some of the oldest being 80 years old,” Wells said.

After a pipe leaks, the amount of water lost can depend on the severity of the leak, according to Wells.

“Typically, [the amount is] a gallon per minute for small leaks to 100 gallons per minute for larger leaks, which can be measured by the amount of water that bubbles up to the surface,” Wells said.

Pipe damage is not a problem specific to Davis and it is not uncommon to see multiple leaks occur once in a while. Yet, larger leaks lead to concerning water loss, street damage and the need for long-term repairs. In order to reduce water loss, professionals use a hydro excavator within 30 minutes of the leak. A hydro excavator sucks the leaking water from the ground while simultaneously lifting the soil.

The city sets up valves every 400 feet from the damage, allowing easy access to problematic pipes. This in turn mitigates the amount of people affected by the construction. After the water is taken care of and the pipes are fixed, the remaining problem lies in street damage repair and more permanent pavement. The city has yet to plan the date of repaving the street area.

In other parts of Davis, the developments of The Cannery Row have taken water conservation into consideration as they are now cutting trenches across East Covell Boulevard to build water mains. The Cannery – a mix of a neighborhood, farm, parks and office spaces – was proposed in 2012 by ConAgra Foods Inc.

The Cannery website has been sending out updates for the project and recently informed citizens on what construction must be done. Workers will be putting in the water utilities for the new development, which are said to be connected to the water main already in place. The new water utilities will include non-potable irrigation lines, which will be used for the site’s parks, greenbelt, and farms.

“Development of the Cannery will include connections to the utilities that run under Covell Boulevard. The developer, the New Home Company, is doing the construction under review and inspection of the City Public Works Department,” said community development administrator Katherine Hess.

Close inspection of the construction is important when working with the older pipes already in place. With the grand opening planned for next summer, Hess does not foresee any issues with the water mains as development starts to pick up.

“The entire development was extensively analyzed in the Environmental Impact Report certified last year,” Hess said.

Along with water main leaks and pipe problems, the City of Davis has been working to fix the city pool. This August, they discovered it was leaking water constantly. According to sources, the pool has been leaking approximately 7,000 gallons per day.

There was a gap in between when the leaks were discovered and when action was taken. Community service superintendent Samantha Wallace said that this was because the last inspection did not occur until Oct. 16.

In response to the concerns that development was moving too slow for the amount of water being wasted every day, Davis City Council met last Friday to revise the date for fixing the pool, which was moved from November to Oct. 29. The city pool has been around for nearly 70 years. With the pool’s refurbishment in action, citizens are wondering about a new pool in the future.

“The city staff has been meeting and we plan to go to the city council in the next two months or so with a plan,” Wallace said.

A new pool, although estimated to cost around $1 million and require months of construction, seems to be an investment supported by the citizens of Davis as well as the city workers and developers who understand the urgency of California’s drought. Citizens and councilmembers believe a new, updated pool would mean fewer problems with water loss in the future — a security that would save money and prevent further concern.

These recent water problems have a common theme — there are outdated infrastructures that have not been updated in many years. The projected cost of the repairs are high but necessary, according to sources.

“To fix the Carmelo Lane pipes, with labor costs included, it is an estimated $3,000,” Wells said.

This amount, which covers labor costs, digging costs and necessary machinery, is paid for through citizens’ water bills, called enterprise funds. The payment is not considered a general fund, which are taxes. With this, the cost to repair the pool is estimated to be $50,000. However, the estimate would only cover the leaks found for the time being. Both costs are related to relatively temporary fixes for long-term problems. Citizens believe the city will need to address these issues, keeping in mind long-term goals that are more cost-effective and eco-friendly.


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