In September of 2002, Council by a 3-2 vote approved Alternative 5 of the 2002 Water Feasibility Study.
“Alternative 5. Increase treatment capacity at Bryte Bend to supply treated surface water to meet average day and most of maximum day demands. Pump groundwater as needed to meet the remaining demands. Treat groundwater as needed to satisfy project objectives. Under this alternative, water from the
Sacramento Riverwould be treated at Bryte Bend and pumped to Davis/UC Davis. The capacity of Bryte Bend would be increased to approximately 90 mgd to meet Davis/UC Davis average day demands and approximately 75 percent of the maximum day demands… To take advantage of existing groundwater pumping capacity, the remaining demands would be met with groundwater pumped from the deep aquifer wells. Peak hour demands and fire flow would be met from above ground storage reservoirs.”
In a continuing mantra, Councilmember Ted Puntillo was quoted in the Davis Enterprise saying, “If we don’t act, we’re going to be put in the back of the bus there, and I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the front again.” In fact, during this year’s workshop on
The two dissenting votes caste at this time were by Councilwoman Sue Greenwald and Councilman Mike Harrington.
Greenwald sought to gather more information about the deep aquifer option—an alternative she also pushed in this year’s meeting.
You will also notice that currently Alternative 5 is no longer the operational plan. Apparently somewhere along the way,
“Alternative 7. Supply all demands using treated surface water from a new Sacramento River diversion and a new water treatment plant… Under this alternative, water from the
Sacramento Riverwould be diverted from a location north of the existing diversion point for Bryte Bend and would be pumped to Davis/UC Davis. A transmission pipeline would be constructed to convey water from this location to Davis/UC … A new water treatment plant would be constructed near Davis with a capacity of approximately 50 mgd, and would meet Davis/UC Davis average day and maximum day demands. Peak hour and fire flows would be met with above ground storage reservoirs.” Davis
Just how did we get there? Following the maze of public hearings, newspaper articles, and staff reports, a picture begins to emerge–it happened in small increments based on decisions to implement MOUs and EIRs of studies rather than actual votes of authorization on an overall plan.
Just over a year later, in September 2003, the West Sacramento plan was still underway. The Davis Enterprise reported on
“Financial, political and structural analyses are the next steps, as Davis, UC Davis and West Sacramento staff continue to explore the possibility of piping Sacramento River water to Davis by way of West Sacramento’s water treatment plant, players in the discussions say.
The quality of the water that leaves West Sacramento’s treatment plant is much higher than Davis’, said Jacques DeBra, a Davis water specialist. Its successes include more user satisfaction, fewer water softeners and less use of bottled water, he said.
The three entities are working on a mutual agreement and looking at the feasibility of the project, which is one of several options Davis and UCD officials spent two years researching for the community’s future water supply. The Davis City Council, along with UCD officials, decided last year to look at supplying the community with water from rivers as well as from underground in the future.”
The aquifer study was approved on a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Mike Harrington dissenting. Harrington believes the study is linked to a growth-induced need for more water capacity, rather than just a search for higher-quality water.
“Instead of focusing on demand reduction,” he said Tuesday, “we’re focusing on (increasing) supply.”
However, as the Davis Enterprise noted, the West Sacramento plan was still alive:
“In addition to the aquifer study, Davis and UCD will continue working with West Sacramento officials toward piping Sacramento River water to Davis years from now for use on campus and in town, if that is feasible. If the project pencils out for all parties, the water would be pumped through West Sacramento‘s water treatment plant on its way to
. If the project were completed, the river water would be the primary source in Davis, with groundwater supplementing it when needed.” Davis
This would be the last time we see the West Sacramento facility and option 5 mentioned in the public record.
“The City Council approved the recommendations from the 2002 Water Supply Feasibility Study. Implementation requires preliminary engineering support to accomplish initial milestones leading up to authorizing the project Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This scope of work will study, to the same level as the feasibility study, options that would involve the City of Woodland that could be included in the EIR process. This provides the city with more options to study and evaluate in the project EIR. This approach ensures that the final project alternative would be covered in the EIR given the challenge of options involving other agencies.”
To this point we have mostly focused on the supply portion of the water issue, it is important to note that in June of 2005, comes the alarming development that the wastewater treatment costs were going to be considerably higher than originally projected. The problem with wastewater is that while the water supply is mainly okay for various elements and compounds, the supply end at times exceeds the allowed standards for some things like selenium.
“Price tag estimates for the Davis project have increased dramatically during the past several months, as engineers have gotten a better idea of what is needed in the plant upgrade. It will be funded primarily by increasing sewer rates, and the project has already triggered increased rates in recent years.
For several months, public works representatives said an upgrade would cost at least $50 million.
“We now know that, sadly, that’s probably not it by half,” Public Works Director Bob Weir said in May, when the council raised sewer rates.”
How much more? Try $140 to $150 million dollars instead of the original estimate of $50 million.
The article also quotes then-Woodland Mayor Matt Rexroad:
“It’s a relatively easy retrofit for us, but not for Davis… We were between a rock and a hard place. Davis is between a rock and a mountain.”
By this point it was clear that the city of Davis had moved away from the approved Alternative 5 which was to expand an existing facility in
From the Davis Enterprise:
“Officials and water experts in Davis, Woodland and at UC Davis are working on a project that they say would give their customers a more reliable, higher-quality water source. They are beginning the official environmental study for the project and will host two public workshops this month.Today, all three water purveyors supply their customers with ground water. As demand increases and wells run deeper, there is little way of knowing how much water is available, sources say. In addition, ground water has minerals that build up on faucets and in pipes and pose problems for quality, both in using the water, and in meeting treatment standards for water that runs through the sewers from homes and businesses.For a decade, the cities and UCD have studied options for treating surface water and sending it through pipes to their customers. At one time, they talked with water experts in West Sacramento about using that city’s treatment plant. Jacques DeBra with the city of Davis said this week West Sacramento’s growth means it will need its treatment plant capacity.The plan now is for
Davis, Woodlandand UCD to draw water from the Sacramento River, send it through pipes to a shared treatment plant they would build, then distribute it to the three areas.”
Little discussion was made of this change or the fact that they were de facto moving onto alternative No.7 deemed the worst case-scenario in the 2002 feasibility study and moreover, it was by far the most expensive option. There was little-to-no revisiting of alternatives or the suggestion that perhaps the city should restudy the issue. In fact, from our review of the history, the Woodland joint project appears to be the trajectory to which the city of Davis had been moving for a considerable amount of time, well before the West Sacramento plan was officially dead.
So we now have the worst case scenario—where we build an entirely new facility, including a new intake facility. Meanwhile the staff last week tried to avoid the tough questions of Mayor Sue Greenwald as she tried to ascertain whether or not there were alternatives and the staff became locked in to alternatives—aided and abetted along the way by the council Majority of Saylor and Asmundson.
The projections right now are for the wastewater treatment plant to be around $150 million and according to the presentation, the costs for the new water supply project would be $300 million with
A couple of additional points that need to be raised here. First, according to a person with good working knowledge of the water system, the intermediate aquifer has never failed to recharge. That aquifer provides all the water a city of the population of around 68,000 needs with about 15,000 or so acre feet a year.
The new plan calls for
So why do we need to double our water? Are we planning to grow to 140,000? At our current growth rate it would take 100 years to get to 140,000 and our water rights would expire by 2040.
This is a huge expense and the staff has not proven the need and has dodged the tough questions every time they have been pushed on this issue.
The costs of both the supply and treatment end have at least doubled since 2002. That needs to be kept in mind. Will these current estimates be correct? Or are we looking at even more increase in cost? I would suspect we are looking at even more unanticipated cost.
Last week’s workshop was informative, but it was really a discussion that assumed we were going forward this option rather than one that proposed we continue to look at alternative options. I think Davis residents who will be facing at least triple their current rates ought to look very serious at the need for water given current population growth projections.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting