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Davis, California

Friday, May 17, 2024

New water usage ordinance added to Davis municipal code

Urgency ordinance has the potential to be permanently codified

By RACHEL SHEY — city@theaggie.org

On Feb. 22, the Davis City Council voted unanimously in favor of new water usage restrictions. To reduce wasting drinkable water, washing buildings or sidewalks with potable water is now prohibited.

City Councilman Dan Carson said that the drought situation looks dire. Since the rainy season this year has been unusually dry, citizens of California must be mindful of water usage in these coming months.

“We’re trying to send a message to the public that they have to be very smart with their water use because honestly, things look grim right now, in terms of this being, once again, an unusually dry rain season,” Carson said. 

The new ordinance will be enforced mostly by citizen complaints. Citizens will be able to report misuse of water to the city — for instance, if they observe a sidewalk being washed with fresh water — via a mobile application called My Davis, according to Carson. 

“We don’t have roving law enforcement officers, but we certainly have city staffers doing their work around the city, their eyes are open to watch out for problems and violations,” Carson said. “The main way we hear about concerns is if someone reports them to us.”

Currently, these new restrictions are part of an urgency ordinance, but the council is considering incorporating them into a permanent part of the city code.  

“After having adopted this emergency ordinance, our staff will now go through the normal process of seeing whether these measures should be permanently adopted as part of the city ordinance that prohibits wasteful use of water,” Carson said.

City Conservation Coordinator Dawn Calciano said that enforcing these restrictions will begin with an education process. For the most part, water is wasted due to ignorance; easily rectified situations, such as a break in a sprinkler system, are often unnoticed.

“It typically starts with a door hanger, and then a follow up door hanger,” Calciano said. “We do have environmental resource staff who go through the whole process and look for water waste and also respond to any water waste concerns that community members have. It starts with an educational process, particularly with sprinklers, because we encourage people to run them through the night, they don’t always know there’s an issue or break in the sprinkler system.”

Due to the rains, Davis has successfully transitioned to using mostly surface water from the Sacramento River in the water supply. As the summer progresses, the ratio will likely shift to about half surface water and half groundwater, according to Calciano.

“It does vary each month,” Calciano said. “Through the winter months, we were 99.6% Sacramento River water and only about 0.4% groundwater, but throughout the summer months, we were only about 50% surface and 50% groundwater. As we had rain in the fall, the amount of surface water increased, and we’ll probably start to see it drop down again throughout the summer.”

Carson said that the city cannot enforce these rules by turning off the water. The city does not have the power to turn off water for households, so losing access to water is not something that city residents have to be worried about. The city is aware that a lot of water wastage is due to ignorance rather than wilful misuse.  

“We’re not allowed under state law to turn people’s water off,” Carson said. “The main reason for that is that it’s a safety and health issue.”

Calciano said that Davis residents significantly reduced their water usage over the winter months. This was likely because abundant rainfall reduced the need for irrigation. 

“We appreciate all the efforts that the Davis community has made, as we saw much improvement in water use in November and December,” Calciano said.

Written by: Rachel Shey — city@theaggie.org


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