City Moves Forward Water Plans

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The city is moving forward with an upgrade to its wastewater treatment. This massive project is currently estimated to cost $140 million. The average customer will see their sewer rates increase gradually over the next ten years by an amount of around 7 percent or just over double the rate projected rate of inflation.

The current proposal is for a flat rate in which all customers would pay the same sewer rates regardless of usage. However, the staff suggested that the costs are the same for both, the allocation of the spending may change if they go to a volume based system.

All involved acknowledged that given restriction on waste water outflow, that there is no scenario without waste water improvement–that is not feasible, we cannot simply do nothing.

Elaine Roberts Musser, Chair of the Davis Senior Citizens Commission raised a couple of concerns. She pointed out that a consumption based method would be best for seniors, since seniors have small households and thus will most likely consume less water on average than the average resident. However, these increases will still hit seniors and very income people very hard and some will lose their homes. Also concerned that multi-dwelling households will have the costs passed on to tenants and that seniors will end up hurt because of their fixed income.

Mayor Sue Greenwald’s approach was that clearly this project was needed however, she wants to look into the feasibility of paying off the wastewater improvement system first before taking on the surface water project. She suggested that some outside experts agree with this approach and that not everyone has the sense of urgency for surface water that some have expressed. She suggested handling the sewer project first and trying to defray the costs on the other as long as possible.

The city has certainly not looked seriously into this possibility of delaying the surface water importation project, but I think they are going to need to. Ms. Musser’s comments are very pertinent because they reflect concerns just about the impact of higher sewer rates on people of either low or fixed income. If you hit them with higher water rates in addition to higher sewer rates, you are hitting them with a double whammy from which they might not recover.

The arguments for doing it now are that construction costs have skyrocketed recently and some have suggested that they will continue to raise making it necessary to build sooner rather than later. There is also the first come, most served argument that those who do not stake their claim to water now will get less or none in the future.

As with the sewer argument, Mayor Greenwald disagreed and argued that talking to other experts that the water rights issue has been overstated. Cities that obtained water in the sixties have the same rights and access as people who have obtained water rights now.

The sewer rate increase passed unanimously but the water supply project was approved by a 3-2 vote.

The interesting subtext is that this is merely moving along the process of securing the rights to extract the water rather than dealing with the costs and engineering of moving that water to Davis.

The council majority argued that this part needs to move forward and that this approval is not tantamount to an overall approval that will happen at a later date.

However, Mayor Greenwald strongly disagreed and I agree with her. If you look at this history of this project it is a history full of small decisions like this that eventually and inevitably lead to the belief in fait accompli. This is just the same as the council claim that approving a Request for Proposal (RFP) is not the same as approving the project. But in fact, it may as well be for practical intents and purposes. There is considerable bureaucratic creep in these projects that means that as they move along, each small step makes it increasingly likely that the final project will end up being approved and that the council will never actually face the big issue of whether or not to approve the project.

It seems to me that serious questions remain about both sewer and water supply that simply have not been addressed. One of those issues is cost for people who cannot afford rate hikes. Remember a lot of fixed income people do not even have cost of living adjustments built in, so an increase at inflation would be troublesome, an increase at 2.3 times inflation could be deadly. An increase of that magnitude for both sewer and water supply could be catastrophic.

In the end, the answer may be that we do need to get a new water supply source and that it must be done now, but significantly more study would seem appropriate. While they have not approved of the final project as of yet, they could mandate further study even as they move forward to obtain the rights to extract the water.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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60 thoughts on “City Moves Forward Water Plans”

  1. Davisite

    The argument about higher costs at a later date is for the most part bogus. Inflation goes through the entire economy with escalating incomes and tax revenues. The decision to bring surface water to Davis ASAP is being pursued surreptitiously by the Public Works Department with the encouragement of the past two council majorities(3-2). The craven political manner in which they are pursuing this does not hide the strategy to dump such a large debt on the citizens of Davis that we will submit to massive peripheral residential development in a desperate attempt to dilute this tax burden. There is no public “oversight” by this current council majority in this matter that offers the public an opportunity to fully hear other “expert” views.. We need a new local government majority in 2008 with a “new direction” that will vigorously pursue the public “discussion/oversight” of this issue .. Remind you of anything?

  2. Davisite

    The argument about higher costs at a later date is for the most part bogus. Inflation goes through the entire economy with escalating incomes and tax revenues. The decision to bring surface water to Davis ASAP is being pursued surreptitiously by the Public Works Department with the encouragement of the past two council majorities(3-2). The craven political manner in which they are pursuing this does not hide the strategy to dump such a large debt on the citizens of Davis that we will submit to massive peripheral residential development in a desperate attempt to dilute this tax burden. There is no public “oversight” by this current council majority in this matter that offers the public an opportunity to fully hear other “expert” views.. We need a new local government majority in 2008 with a “new direction” that will vigorously pursue the public “discussion/oversight” of this issue .. Remind you of anything?

  3. Davisite

    The argument about higher costs at a later date is for the most part bogus. Inflation goes through the entire economy with escalating incomes and tax revenues. The decision to bring surface water to Davis ASAP is being pursued surreptitiously by the Public Works Department with the encouragement of the past two council majorities(3-2). The craven political manner in which they are pursuing this does not hide the strategy to dump such a large debt on the citizens of Davis that we will submit to massive peripheral residential development in a desperate attempt to dilute this tax burden. There is no public “oversight” by this current council majority in this matter that offers the public an opportunity to fully hear other “expert” views.. We need a new local government majority in 2008 with a “new direction” that will vigorously pursue the public “discussion/oversight” of this issue .. Remind you of anything?

  4. Davisite

    The argument about higher costs at a later date is for the most part bogus. Inflation goes through the entire economy with escalating incomes and tax revenues. The decision to bring surface water to Davis ASAP is being pursued surreptitiously by the Public Works Department with the encouragement of the past two council majorities(3-2). The craven political manner in which they are pursuing this does not hide the strategy to dump such a large debt on the citizens of Davis that we will submit to massive peripheral residential development in a desperate attempt to dilute this tax burden. There is no public “oversight” by this current council majority in this matter that offers the public an opportunity to fully hear other “expert” views.. We need a new local government majority in 2008 with a “new direction” that will vigorously pursue the public “discussion/oversight” of this issue .. Remind you of anything?

  5. Davisite

    In addition, State law now demands that developers identify the source and availability of the water that will be needed for their developments. Bringing surface water to Davis now “opens this spigot”.

  6. Davisite

    In addition, State law now demands that developers identify the source and availability of the water that will be needed for their developments. Bringing surface water to Davis now “opens this spigot”.

  7. Davisite

    In addition, State law now demands that developers identify the source and availability of the water that will be needed for their developments. Bringing surface water to Davis now “opens this spigot”.

  8. Davisite

    In addition, State law now demands that developers identify the source and availability of the water that will be needed for their developments. Bringing surface water to Davis now “opens this spigot”.

  9. Don Shor

    I would urge one of the progressive council members to introduce a measure establishing a lifeline rate for water and sewer, and it might as well start now. That way it will already be in place when the cost of these new projects starts getting passed on to ratepayers.

    Personally I don’t think an increase of 7% over ten years is unreasonable at all to pay for a compliant wastewater system. I also don’t think that the costs described to bring a surface water supply to Davis (which would have numerous advantages) are unreasonable, though I definitely agree it would be good to see more oversight on the project. But if those costs are going to burden folks on fixed incomes, then that cost issue should be addressed directly and head on — rather than trying to block the project(s) on those grounds.

    The connection to growth is irrelevant. Trying to constrain growth by restricting water resources is poor public policy.

    Water conservation could certainly be achieved. Most people overwater their landscapes, and minor improvements can be achieved in households as well. But conservation is most effective when the incentive is built into the rate structure.

  10. Don Shor

    I would urge one of the progressive council members to introduce a measure establishing a lifeline rate for water and sewer, and it might as well start now. That way it will already be in place when the cost of these new projects starts getting passed on to ratepayers.

    Personally I don’t think an increase of 7% over ten years is unreasonable at all to pay for a compliant wastewater system. I also don’t think that the costs described to bring a surface water supply to Davis (which would have numerous advantages) are unreasonable, though I definitely agree it would be good to see more oversight on the project. But if those costs are going to burden folks on fixed incomes, then that cost issue should be addressed directly and head on — rather than trying to block the project(s) on those grounds.

    The connection to growth is irrelevant. Trying to constrain growth by restricting water resources is poor public policy.

    Water conservation could certainly be achieved. Most people overwater their landscapes, and minor improvements can be achieved in households as well. But conservation is most effective when the incentive is built into the rate structure.

  11. Don Shor

    I would urge one of the progressive council members to introduce a measure establishing a lifeline rate for water and sewer, and it might as well start now. That way it will already be in place when the cost of these new projects starts getting passed on to ratepayers.

    Personally I don’t think an increase of 7% over ten years is unreasonable at all to pay for a compliant wastewater system. I also don’t think that the costs described to bring a surface water supply to Davis (which would have numerous advantages) are unreasonable, though I definitely agree it would be good to see more oversight on the project. But if those costs are going to burden folks on fixed incomes, then that cost issue should be addressed directly and head on — rather than trying to block the project(s) on those grounds.

    The connection to growth is irrelevant. Trying to constrain growth by restricting water resources is poor public policy.

    Water conservation could certainly be achieved. Most people overwater their landscapes, and minor improvements can be achieved in households as well. But conservation is most effective when the incentive is built into the rate structure.

  12. Don Shor

    I would urge one of the progressive council members to introduce a measure establishing a lifeline rate for water and sewer, and it might as well start now. That way it will already be in place when the cost of these new projects starts getting passed on to ratepayers.

    Personally I don’t think an increase of 7% over ten years is unreasonable at all to pay for a compliant wastewater system. I also don’t think that the costs described to bring a surface water supply to Davis (which would have numerous advantages) are unreasonable, though I definitely agree it would be good to see more oversight on the project. But if those costs are going to burden folks on fixed incomes, then that cost issue should be addressed directly and head on — rather than trying to block the project(s) on those grounds.

    The connection to growth is irrelevant. Trying to constrain growth by restricting water resources is poor public policy.

    Water conservation could certainly be achieved. Most people overwater their landscapes, and minor improvements can be achieved in households as well. But conservation is most effective when the incentive is built into the rate structure.

  13. Don Shor

    The recent criticism by the moderators about the content of posts is getting disconcerting. Is moderation of this blog about to become more strict? I hope not.

  14. Don Shor

    The recent criticism by the moderators about the content of posts is getting disconcerting. Is moderation of this blog about to become more strict? I hope not.

  15. Don Shor

    The recent criticism by the moderators about the content of posts is getting disconcerting. Is moderation of this blog about to become more strict? I hope not.

  16. Don Shor

    The recent criticism by the moderators about the content of posts is getting disconcerting. Is moderation of this blog about to become more strict? I hope not.

  17. 無名 - wu ming

    how much does sewer come to a year, really? if it’s really about fixed income and low income households, couldn’t the city just subsidize those households? if it’s about affluent homeowners not wanting to pay taxes, well, i don’t have much sympathy for them. apples and oranges IMO.

  18. 無名 - wu ming

    how much does sewer come to a year, really? if it’s really about fixed income and low income households, couldn’t the city just subsidize those households? if it’s about affluent homeowners not wanting to pay taxes, well, i don’t have much sympathy for them. apples and oranges IMO.

  19. 無名 - wu ming

    how much does sewer come to a year, really? if it’s really about fixed income and low income households, couldn’t the city just subsidize those households? if it’s about affluent homeowners not wanting to pay taxes, well, i don’t have much sympathy for them. apples and oranges IMO.

  20. 無名 - wu ming

    how much does sewer come to a year, really? if it’s really about fixed income and low income households, couldn’t the city just subsidize those households? if it’s about affluent homeowners not wanting to pay taxes, well, i don’t have much sympathy for them. apples and oranges IMO.

  21. Davisite

    Don…. two points… as a moderator of this blog, let me reply about your concern.. there is no plan to change the very limited “red lines” that would warrant removal of a post. As I understand it, this blog was created to be a SERIOUS vehicle for information and discussion about issues and moderator comments are only a reminder of that fact.
    …..second,addressing your well-reasoned points on the surface water issue, the critical points for me are the absence of adequate public examination of the project and alternative as well as the pressure of the time-sensitive- decisions argument that we have all seen before used to cut off critical analysis.This is connected to the apparently sooner- rather- than- later implimentation road down which this project appears to be inexorably moving in spite of the protestations from the council majority and Public Works department. The question of why now as opposed to 10-20 yrs from now has not been adequately answered.

  22. Davisite

    Don…. two points… as a moderator of this blog, let me reply about your concern.. there is no plan to change the very limited “red lines” that would warrant removal of a post. As I understand it, this blog was created to be a SERIOUS vehicle for information and discussion about issues and moderator comments are only a reminder of that fact.
    …..second,addressing your well-reasoned points on the surface water issue, the critical points for me are the absence of adequate public examination of the project and alternative as well as the pressure of the time-sensitive- decisions argument that we have all seen before used to cut off critical analysis.This is connected to the apparently sooner- rather- than- later implimentation road down which this project appears to be inexorably moving in spite of the protestations from the council majority and Public Works department. The question of why now as opposed to 10-20 yrs from now has not been adequately answered.

  23. Davisite

    Don…. two points… as a moderator of this blog, let me reply about your concern.. there is no plan to change the very limited “red lines” that would warrant removal of a post. As I understand it, this blog was created to be a SERIOUS vehicle for information and discussion about issues and moderator comments are only a reminder of that fact.
    …..second,addressing your well-reasoned points on the surface water issue, the critical points for me are the absence of adequate public examination of the project and alternative as well as the pressure of the time-sensitive- decisions argument that we have all seen before used to cut off critical analysis.This is connected to the apparently sooner- rather- than- later implimentation road down which this project appears to be inexorably moving in spite of the protestations from the council majority and Public Works department. The question of why now as opposed to 10-20 yrs from now has not been adequately answered.

  24. Davisite

    Don…. two points… as a moderator of this blog, let me reply about your concern.. there is no plan to change the very limited “red lines” that would warrant removal of a post. As I understand it, this blog was created to be a SERIOUS vehicle for information and discussion about issues and moderator comments are only a reminder of that fact.
    …..second,addressing your well-reasoned points on the surface water issue, the critical points for me are the absence of adequate public examination of the project and alternative as well as the pressure of the time-sensitive- decisions argument that we have all seen before used to cut off critical analysis.This is connected to the apparently sooner- rather- than- later implimentation road down which this project appears to be inexorably moving in spite of the protestations from the council majority and Public Works department. The question of why now as opposed to 10-20 yrs from now has not been adequately answered.

  25. Doug Paul Davis

    Davisite raises a key point here that needs to be reiterated: the pressure to do this now seems to be based on a set of assumptions about need, cost, future access. Those assumptions need full scrutiny by non-interested parties.

    On a related note is my concern that this process has been moved on under the guise that none of the steps taken have been the ultimate authorizing step. And yet at some point this trajectory appears to make it likely that this will simply be fait accompli without a serious discussion as to whether we should have taken this path. The cost of this project to me warrants scrutiny and care.

  26. Doug Paul Davis

    Davisite raises a key point here that needs to be reiterated: the pressure to do this now seems to be based on a set of assumptions about need, cost, future access. Those assumptions need full scrutiny by non-interested parties.

    On a related note is my concern that this process has been moved on under the guise that none of the steps taken have been the ultimate authorizing step. And yet at some point this trajectory appears to make it likely that this will simply be fait accompli without a serious discussion as to whether we should have taken this path. The cost of this project to me warrants scrutiny and care.

  27. Doug Paul Davis

    Davisite raises a key point here that needs to be reiterated: the pressure to do this now seems to be based on a set of assumptions about need, cost, future access. Those assumptions need full scrutiny by non-interested parties.

    On a related note is my concern that this process has been moved on under the guise that none of the steps taken have been the ultimate authorizing step. And yet at some point this trajectory appears to make it likely that this will simply be fait accompli without a serious discussion as to whether we should have taken this path. The cost of this project to me warrants scrutiny and care.

  28. Doug Paul Davis

    Davisite raises a key point here that needs to be reiterated: the pressure to do this now seems to be based on a set of assumptions about need, cost, future access. Those assumptions need full scrutiny by non-interested parties.

    On a related note is my concern that this process has been moved on under the guise that none of the steps taken have been the ultimate authorizing step. And yet at some point this trajectory appears to make it likely that this will simply be fait accompli without a serious discussion as to whether we should have taken this path. The cost of this project to me warrants scrutiny and care.

  29. blog administrator

    An additional cause for deletion from the comment section has been added. Authors of comments shall be identified in the manner that they have chosen for themselves.

  30. blog administrator

    An additional cause for deletion from the comment section has been added. Authors of comments shall be identified in the manner that they have chosen for themselves.

  31. blog administrator

    An additional cause for deletion from the comment section has been added. Authors of comments shall be identified in the manner that they have chosen for themselves.

  32. blog administrator

    An additional cause for deletion from the comment section has been added. Authors of comments shall be identified in the manner that they have chosen for themselves.

  33. Doug Paul Davis

    Mr. Rifkin has received an email explanation for why his comments were pulled and they had nothing to do with his viewpoint, he is free to repost without the questionable context or if he does not have them, I can repost them for him.

  34. Doug Paul Davis

    Mr. Rifkin has received an email explanation for why his comments were pulled and they had nothing to do with his viewpoint, he is free to repost without the questionable context or if he does not have them, I can repost them for him.

  35. Doug Paul Davis

    Mr. Rifkin has received an email explanation for why his comments were pulled and they had nothing to do with his viewpoint, he is free to repost without the questionable context or if he does not have them, I can repost them for him.

  36. Doug Paul Davis

    Mr. Rifkin has received an email explanation for why his comments were pulled and they had nothing to do with his viewpoint, he is free to repost without the questionable context or if he does not have them, I can repost them for him.

  37. Rich Rifkin

    Mr. Rifkin will not repost his comments. They should not have been deleted. I was sent an email after I posted them that said that the rules had changed. And then when I looked to see this thread, my comments were gone.

    The reason they were pulled, obviously, was because the person who is the site nanny can dish it out but he can’t take it. THAT is why I was censored.

  38. Rich Rifkin

    Mr. Rifkin will not repost his comments. They should not have been deleted. I was sent an email after I posted them that said that the rules had changed. And then when I looked to see this thread, my comments were gone.

    The reason they were pulled, obviously, was because the person who is the site nanny can dish it out but he can’t take it. THAT is why I was censored.

  39. Rich Rifkin

    Mr. Rifkin will not repost his comments. They should not have been deleted. I was sent an email after I posted them that said that the rules had changed. And then when I looked to see this thread, my comments were gone.

    The reason they were pulled, obviously, was because the person who is the site nanny can dish it out but he can’t take it. THAT is why I was censored.

  40. Rich Rifkin

    Mr. Rifkin will not repost his comments. They should not have been deleted. I was sent an email after I posted them that said that the rules had changed. And then when I looked to see this thread, my comments were gone.

    The reason they were pulled, obviously, was because the person who is the site nanny can dish it out but he can’t take it. THAT is why I was censored.

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