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Davis, California

Monday, April 22, 2024

Davis water reaches legal limit

Environmental Working Group contests Davis water limit leniency

Since 2017, nearly 9% of California’s public water systems have been “out of compliance,” violating state and federal drinking water standards, according to the state’s Water Resources Control Board. While Davis has been in compliance with health standards currently, some organizations have concerns as to the safety of these regulations.

In 2016, Woodland and Davis completed a water treatment facility and intake that allowed both cities to receive water from the Sacramento River in addition to older groundwater sources. The plan was devised in 2006 in order to address water shortages and deteriorating wells. 

The project currently provides water for more than two-thirds of the urban population of Yolo County, but “in the future […] will provide approximately 85 to 95 percent of Woodland and Davis customers’ water needs in normal years,” according to the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency.

Residents had hoped this change would help alleviate concerns over the hardness and alkalinity of the region’s tap water, but additional issues soon arose.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit activist organization that specializes in research, detected 25 contaminants — including chromium, iron, manganese, odor and boron — between 2012 and 2017 for the City of Davis. The most common sources of pollution were leaching and erosion of natural deposits. 

Davis, however, is currently within compliance “that meets or exceeds all state and federal health standards,” according to a recent City of Davis Water Quality Report

In the most recent Water Quality Report released by the City of Davis, 25 contaminants were detected and several of those were found to be above legal regulatory limits, including chromium, iron, manganese, odor and boron. The most common sources of pollution were leaching and erosion of natural deposits.

The report assured residents that corrective actions have been taken and advised: “Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk.”

But the Environmental Working Group (EWG) contests that the legal limits are too lenient, citing seven contaminants that currently exceed EWG health guidelines for the City of Davis. 

“The federal government’s legal limits are not health-protective,” the Environmental Working Group’s website said. “The EPA has not set a new tap water standard in almost 20 years, and some standards are more than 40 years old.”

Using data from local water quality authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the nonprofit organization compiled a database and created its own updated set of drinking water standards.

In its 2019 report, the EWG cited the carcinogens arsenic, nitrate, nitrite, radium, total trihalomethanes and uranium as additional contaminants of concern in the City of Davis. In addition to cancer, these contaminants have been linked to respiratory problems, birth defects, tissue damage and other serious health conditions. Children and those with pre-existing conditions are the most susceptible to these adverse effects.

To find the most recent data, monthly water quality summaries are available on the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency website

For more information about this report, or for any questions relating to your drinking water, please contact City of Davis Public Works at (530) 757-5686 and ask for Heather Brown. If you ever experience a problem with your water supply after hours, please call the non-emergency Police Department number at (530) 747-5400.

Written by: Megan Tsang — city@theaggie.org 

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that Davis has been a repeat offender with the most recent reports detecting high levels of carcinogens in the city’s supply of drinking water. This article has since been updated to reflect that Davis has historically dealt with contaminants, but there are no current violations. While the Environmental Working Group has its own standards to measure water quality, the City of Davis is, nevertheless, still within compliance so the article is fixed to specify and reflect the city’s current water status. The Aggie regrets the error.


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