Water Initiative Would Reduce Water Rates and Cap Future Rate Increases to CPI

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Davis residents Ernie Head and Jim Stevens have drafted an initiative that they will circulate to Davis voters.  Unlike the referendum, which will be a simple up or down vote on the council approved rate hikes, the initiative, if it gains enough signatures to qualify and wins, would actually update existing laws regarding water rate hikes.

The referendum has a much higher hurdle to cross to qualify for the ballot.  Signature gatherers for the referendum had to collect over 3800 signatures in 30 days.

The initiative has nearly six months to qualify for the ballot, in 180 days, and it only requires 1136 valid signatures to qualify, as opposed to the much higher number for the referendum.

The initiative, which has been prepared by City Attorney Harriet Steiner, does a number of things.

First, “This initiative, if passed by a majority of the voters voting on the measure, would repeal the water rate increases adopted by the City Council in September 2011 that increase water rates over the next five years to provide funding for water system capital improvements, including the surface water project, and other water system costs.”

Second, “The initiative would reduce current water rates and limit future water rate increases to an annual amount not to exceed the increase in the consumer price index (“CPI”).”

If the initiative passed, the base rate would be reduced to the rates in effect in August 2010.  The initiative measure would reduce the base rate for single family homes, effective December 2011, of $14.50 to a base rate of $11.50.

Furthermore, the metered rate would also change in two ways.

“The City’s metered rate includes two tiers for each type of user. The price per ccf is less in Tier 1 than in Tier 2. Under the City’s rates proposed to go into effect on January 1, 2012, Tier 1 (the lower use tier) for single family homes ranges from 0 to 27 ccf. The proposed initiative increases Tier 1 to 36 ccf for single family homes and would enact similar changes for other user types.”

Furthermore, “The initiative would also reduce the metered rate by volume (ccf) to the levels in effect in September 2010. For example, a single family home would pay $1.50 per ccf in Tier 1 instead of $1.90 (the rate scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2012).”

The initiative also repeals the annual rate increases adopted by the City Council and caps the amount of any water rate increase to the change in the CPI from the preceding year.

According to the initiative, this rate increase cap to the change in the CPI would apply to all future water rate increases. The rate cap applies to increases for all water system costs, including capital infrastructure, debt service, and operations and maintenance costs. The initiative also provides that any changes or increases to water rates be “across the board” and equally or proportionally apply to all rate types.

Ernie Head told the Enterprise this week, “I’m for having elections, regular old-fashioned elections. Secret ballot. That’s the main thing.”

“We sat down and decided that the rates should be the same as they were before the City Council ordinance was passed back in September,” Mr. Head said.

While neither the initiative nor the referendum would prevent the city from doing the water supply program outright, it would make it much more difficult to get the funding together.

As City Attorney Harriet Steiner told the Enterprise, “The city does a study that looks at all its water-related costs, both capital and operations, and what the costs are anticipated to be for the upcoming year.”

She added, “The city also looks at the amount of water use anticipated for the next year and into the future, and then the city determines, and the council approves, a rate that will cover that cost.”

The Vanguard has suggested a phase-in of rates over a longer period of time, building in savings.  The Vanguard believes that previous councils erred by not ramping up spending over the last decade, as was done for the new wastewater treatment plant.

The Vanguard takes no formal position on the initiative.  We would need more time to evaluate the impact of these changes on the future ability of future councils to generate the revenue needed for capital projects.

The Vanguard took the position that the all voters, rather than simply homeowners, deserved the right to vote up or down on the water rate hikes, and therefore came out in support of putting the referendum on the ballot.

The Prop 218 process, as we argued, was insufficient in a community where 55% of residents were not property owners and thus could not participate in the rate protest.  While it is true that renters do not directly pay for water and sewer rates, we believe that enough people are indirectly impacted through higher rents and potentially higher costs to purchase goods and services that everyone should participate.

The initiative is another matter, and the Vanguard does not take a position at this time, until it learns more, as to whether to support putting the initiative on the ballot.

According to the Enterprise, “Future rate increases would be tied to the Consumer Price Index, Head said, prohibiting any increase higher than the CPI hike in the previous year.”

“[The council would] be allowed to raise the fees some amount if it became necessary that they needed a little more money,” Mr. Head explained.

“But I can’t even count how many years it’s been since I’ve seen an increase in my salary, and I know that applies to a lot of other people, and the normal cost of living has gone up about 3 percent every year.”

—David M. Greenwald 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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64 thoughts on “Water Initiative Would Reduce Water Rates and Cap Future Rate Increases to CPI”

  1. rusty49

    “While it is true that renters do not directly pay for water and sewer rates, we believe that enough people are indirectly impacted through higher rents and potentially higher costs to purchase goods and services that everyone should participate.”

    IMO most landlords will definitely pass on the much higher water rates to the renters. They deserve to vote.

  2. Matt Williams

    rusty, I completely agree that gathering the signatures will be easy. The problem will be in getting enough yes votes at the ballot box. As I read through the description of the initiative wording I found my mind saying, “[i]The revenue stream that this wording will probably cover the costs of normal system maintenance and regulatory compliance, but will almost surely not cover the cost of drilling additional deep aquifer wells or the costs of as yet unknown major regulatory initiatives.[/i]” It seems to be a guarantee that the water department will run at a deficit forever.

    One thing that isn’t clear is will this initiative apply to wastewater (sewer) rates. If it does, how will it? If it doesn’t, why doesn’t it?

  3. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]The Vanguard has suggested a phase-in of rates over a longer period of time, building in savings. The Vanguard believes that previous councils erred by not ramping up spending over the last decade, as was done for the new wastewater treatment plant.[/quote]

    The Vanguard believes that previous councils erred by not ramping up spending over the last decade, but then turns around and advocates for not ramping up spending over the next decade!

  4. Rifkin

    DG: [i]”The initiative, which has been [u]prepared[/u] by City Attorney Harriet Steiner, does a number of things.”[/i]

    SODA: [b]”Why did Harriet [u]draft[/u] the initiative?”[/b]

    I’m not sure what you mean when saying Harriet “prepared” the initiative. I would presume it is one of two things: A) Mr. Head paid her cash money to work on his behalf, outside of her job as the city attorney; or B) Harriet, as part of her job as the city attorney, reviewed the language submitted by Mr. Head to make sure the language met the standards required by state law.

    Choice A makes no sense. First, because of her job as the city attorney (albeit one who is not a city employee, but rather an employee of her law firm), it would be unethical (and probably illegal) for her to take cash money (homey) to work on behalf of a party which is, effectively, in conflect with city policy. Also, Mr. Head has a lawyer in his employ, Mike Harrington. As such, he would not need to “hire” Harriet.

    My guess thus is her role was perfunctory, a routine part of her job, just making sure all the i’s were dotted, all the t’s were crossed, all the whereas’s were whereassed. In other words, I think it was Choice B.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]B) Harriet, as part of her job as the city attorney, reviewed the language submitted by Mr. Head to make sure the language met the standards required by state law. [/quote]

    I assume this is why Harriet Steiner was “involved”…

  6. Don Shor

    Thanks, Rich. Prepared for the ballot, you might say. Drafted, presumably, by Ernie Head and Judge Stevens.

    [i]The rate cap applies to increases for all water system costs, including capital infrastructure, debt service, and operations and maintenance costs.[/i]

    Unbelievable.

  7. Rifkin

    [i]”Drafted, presumably, by Ernie Head and Judge Stevens.”[/i]

    Let’s just hope there are no raunchy zucchinis ([url]http://articles.sfgate.com/1996-02-20/news/17769023_1_stevens-legal-bills-judge[/url]) involved.

  8. Sue Greenwald

    [quote]The Vanguard has suggested a phase-in of rates over a longer period of time, building in savings.– [b]David Greenwald[/b][/quote]David, if we phase in the payments over a longer period of time without postponing one of the projects, the rates will be higher after the phase in period. The longer the phase-in period, the higher the rates will be after the phase-in period.

  9. Sue Greenwald

    [quote]The Vanguard has suggested a phase-in of rates over a longer period of time, building in savings.–[b]David Greenwald[/b][/quote]And what do you mean by “building in savings?”

  10. Ryan Kelly

    [quote]“It took over 5000 signatures to get the referendum count, 1136 in 180 days will be a cake walk.”[/quote]

    It took 13 paid outside signatures working over 300 hours for thousands of dollars to collect around 3000 signatures and over 50 volunteers (per Mike Harrington) to collect the rest of the signatures. Is Ernie Head going to pay signature gathers again?
    [quote][i]
    Mike Harrington: “Rich. The vegetable comment is inappropriate.” [/i][/quote]

    I thought it was funny. Both Rich’s comment and Mike Harrington’s response. Mike’s comment is like the pot calling the kettle black.

  11. medwoman

    ” and caps the amount of any water rate increase to the change in the CPI from the previous year”

    Granted this is all I have read about the initiative to date and I fully appreciate David’s efforts to investigate further. Having said that, I can hardly conceive of a better way to completely tie the hands of city officials in terms of removing all flexibility in dealing with fund raising for future capital projects regardless of demonstrated need.

  12. medwoman

    ” and caps the amount of any water rate increase to the change in the CPI from the previous year”

    Granted this is all I have read about the initiative to date and I fully appreciate David’s efforts to investigate further. Having said that, I can hardly conceive of a better way to completely tie the hands of city officials in terms of removing all flexibility in dealing with fund raising for future capital projects regardless of demonstrated need.

  13. Matt Williams

    Mr.Toad said . . .

    [i]”Rifkin :”Let’s just hope there are no raunchy zucchinis involved.”

    The Vanguard censors fail again.”[/i]

    What would you have wanted them to censor?

  14. Rifkin

    MH: “Rich. The vegetable comment is inappropriate.”

    Like Nixon with Watergate, Stevens will always, appropriately in my view, be tarred by zucchini-gate. It nearly bankrupted Yolo County.

  15. medwoman

    “The vegetable comment is inappropriate”

    Perhaps, but would you have preferred that Rich cite my favorite Stevens quote :

    “Oh come on, we’re all adults here. What’s a little wife beating?” Are we just supposed to sweep this egregious breech of judgement under the carpet also. To me, these and other behaviors for which Judge Stevens was reprimanded speak very clearly and not positively to his judgement.

  16. Rifkin

    The greatest indictment against Stevens–beside his own words and the hundreds of thousands of dollars he cost the taxpayers–was that all of the other judges in Yolo County believed he was in the wrong. One thing I know about human nature is that it is normal for a fraternity to stick together when one brother is accused of wrongdoing. We see this all the time with cops, where other police officers are either quiet or they back the one who has been accused of something. But in Stevens’s case, all of the other judges spoke out against him, questioning his behavior and actions.

  17. Adrienne Kandel

    This initiative sounds incredibly stupid. Water fees are hold to not rise in real terms even if real costs rise — and they will first to treat the waste water, second to dig deeper as we draw down groundwater, third to treat groundwater if new regulations keep us from showering in Chromium 6, fourth pumping costs depend on the price of energy. When those water costs go up do we… (1) stop delivering city water and we all buy bottled water, (2) see if a little of the water can be pumped and cleaned cheaply and ration that, or (3) raid the City budget because water is more crucial to life than say firefighting (more difficult without water anyhow)?

  18. Justin Kudo

    This is an awesome idea, pass this and the city will never be able to improve its water infrastructure and get off those crappy wells.

    Even better, the city will continue to incur higher and higher fines with the State of California for its wastewater discharge and continued maintenance and replacement costs for wells… which the city won’t be able to pay for with rates capped by initiative, thus driving the city further into debt. Not to mention how exciting it will be when the aquifer collapses because a city of 65,000 people was never meant to run off of aging groundwater wells.

    And I’m sure Ernie and Jim will be able to find enough short-sighted or clueless people that they can scare into signing by telling them their bills are going up and this is to “protect us from government”.

    Brilliant.

  19. Problem Is

    Wouldn’t this initiative simply make the City Council have to put their own future initiative on the ballot asking voters to approve a rate increase to fund any proposed water project?

  20. hpierce

    David…. is the text of the initiative availible, and if so, will you post it? At the municipal level, (as opposed to an initiative that amends the State constitution) any initiative to create an ordinance can be superseded by a subsequent adoption of a different ordinance by the CC. So, if the initiative moves forward, we could be paying for an election, and once it is passed (if it is) the CC could do another ordinance introduction at their very next meeting. Sounds real productive (not) to me. With the 6 month window to qualify, I’ll bet the strategy is to have two separate votes on the same issue.

  21. Voter2012

    “Ernie broke? Not likely given the compensation he got for the well site he sold to the city a few years ago…”

    hpierce: Can you give use more details? Google was not much help.

    All I could find was a dead link for an Aggie article published 9/29/2005.

    The title of the article was – “City of Davis buys land for over $800K”

    The text linked to the URL was – “Head was willing to sell the land for $136900, provided that the city agreed on fulfilling…”

    This looks like he might have cleared almost $700K of taxpayer money in a some sort of dispute with the City. Is this accurate? Any idea where the parcel was located or its size and zoning at the time of purchase?

  22. hpierce

    Let me verify my sources… the well site is on John Jones Road, where the “monument sign is for the roadsides businesses… btw, the rumor is that the lease payments for the sign have not been made for years…

  23. Sue Greenwald

    [quote]Even better, the city will continue to incur higher and higher fines with the State of California for its wastewater discharge and continued maintenance and replacement costs for wells…–[b]Justin Kudo[/b][/quote]I obviously can’t support Ernie’s approach.

    However, it is way, way premature to assume that we have only two choices in front of us: To proceed with the current plan and timeline or face huge fines. There is ample reason to believe that there is room for significant compromise.

    We have not exhausted our remedies, and there is probably room for major compromise with the SWRCB.

    Remember, over half of our households make under $60,000 a year, forty percent of our students have Pell grants, and many citizens are seniors on fixed incomes. I am not sure that people understand what $300 million of new water-related expenditures will mean for citizens and for the city.

  24. Sue Greenwald

    While I don’t support Earnie’s approach, I do hope that people listen to what he is saying about fixed incomes. Even most of our California public sector retirement plans only allow a 2% annual cost of living adjustments. The average inflation rate has been 3%, and with all of the money the government has been printing it could be much, much higher.

    Most public sector retirements are far, far lower than our public safety and management retirements. Even losing 1% a year of income adds up over 30 or 40 years, and we could be seeing much higher inflation. Seniors are very insecure about locking themselves into payments that they can’t afford, for very good reason.

  25. David M. Greenwald

    “The Vanguard believes that previous councils erred by not ramping up spending over the last decade, but then turns around and advocates for not ramping up spending over the next decade!”

    Because 14% increases for six years are not a ramp up. A ramp up would mean you very gradually increase rates and bank the savings to start building the project. This is just a finance plan.

  26. davisite2

    The circulation of this initiative is an effective tool to galvanize Davis voters around a political action that expresses their anger and frustration at the Council Majority paying only passing “lip service” to calls for this project to be put on hold and reworked. Turning a deaf ear to the Davis voters is never a good idea.

  27. Matt Williams

    davisite2 said . . .

    [i]”The circulation of this initiative is an effective tool to galvanize Davis voters around a political action that expresses their anger and frustration at the Council Majority paying only passing “lip service” to calls for this project to be put on hold and reworked. Turning a deaf ear to the Davis voters is never a good idea.”[/i]

    Do you really feel that it is possible to galvanize voters any further than the referendum process has? I don’t. The Council’s attention is fully captured.

  28. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]ERM: “The Vanguard believes that previous councils erred by not ramping up spending over the last decade, but then turns around and advocates for not ramping up spending over the next decade!”

    DMG: Because 14% increases for six years are not a ramp up. A ramp up would mean you very gradually increase rates and bank the savings to start building the project. This is just a finance plan.[/quote]

    Sorry, but you are asking for not ramping up spending for the NEXT decade, despite complaining about the council erring for not ramping up spending for the LAST decade. The fact of the matter is the council would have started increasing rates long ago for the NEXT DECADE but for the demand to “slow down” in order to bring two UCD experts on board, who insisted we do the water rate increases first and foremost…

  29. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Elaine: what was the sewer rate increase over the past five years?[/quote]

    Did you miss my point?
    [quote]The fact of the matter is the council would have started increasing rates long ago for the NEXT DECADE but for the demand to “slow down” in order to bring two UCD experts on board, who insisted we do the water rate increases first and foremost…[/quote]

  30. Voter2012

    “the well site is on John Jones Road, where the “monument sign is for the roadsides businesses… btw, the rumor is that the lease payments for the sign have not been made for years…”

    hpierce: I take it from your comment that Ernie head may be the owner of the monument sign?

  31. davisite2

    “…he Council’s attention is fully captured.”

    Action defines the Council’s level of “attention”. Creative accounting to lower the apparent rate increase and continuing “mushroom cloud”, sky-is-falling narratives that are denied, within politically acceptable limits, by the head of our own Public Works Department ,IMO, suggest that the Council does not take seriously the voters’ anger and frustration. This initiative, with its very real probability of passage by Davis voters, may be just the ticket to get the Council’s attention..

  32. Matt Williams

    Davisite2, at this point in time what you are referring to is ancient history. How would you compare the level of “attention” then (12/6/2011) to the level of “attention” now?

    Lets move forward and make the best possible decision rather than practice equine flagellation.

  33. davisite2

    Davisite2, at this point in time what you are referring to is ancient history. How would you compare the level of “attention” then (12/6/2011) to the level of “attention” now?

    No, it’s not ancient history but rather recent and still on-going. The Council’s ‘lowering’ of the rate increase was a direct result of the referendum signature-gathering campaign. The probable passage of the proposed initiative will, no doubt, focus the Council’s “attention” even more.

  34. medwoman

    “Turning a deaf ear to the Davis voters is never a good idea”

    I think you may be getting a little ahead of yourself here. We really don’t know yet what the “Davis voters” will do now do we ?
    Mike Harrington has made multiple statements about what will happen and how those of us who think differently from him will “just have to get used to it”, but no vote has yet occurred. Wouldn’t it be wiser to stick to the issues and see how the voters decide based on a reasoned weighing of the pros and cons ?

  35. Don Shor

    This initiative is a direct threat to the nursery, landscape, and maintenance gardener businesses in Davis. It could curtail available water within 4 – 6 years.
    If Ernie Head and Jim Stevens wanted the public to vote on the water project, they should have drafted an initiative to do that specifically. Then they could explain how they feel the city should deal with the pending water quality regulations and the long-term issue of pumping from the intermediate aquifer. Perhaps they believe the deep aquifer is a good long term solution. Perhaps they just don’t care. But this initiative would preclude the city from replacing its current wells, from digging a single new well, or from bringing in any surface water from any source.
    This initiative is irresponsible and a direct threat to my livelihood. Any public figure who supports this, even for tactical reasons, does not belong in office.

  36. Matt Williams

    Don Shor said . . .

    [i]”This initiative is a direct threat to the nursery, landscape, and maintenance gardener businesses in Davis. It could curtail available water within 4 – 6 years.

    If Ernie Head and Jim Stevens wanted the public to vote on the water project, they should have drafted an initiative to do that specifically. Then they could explain how they feel the city should deal with the pending water quality regulations and the long-term issue of pumping from the intermediate aquifer. Perhaps they believe the deep aquifer is a good long term solution. [b]Perhaps they just don’t care.[/b] But this initiative would preclude the city from replacing its current wells, from digging a single new well, or from bringing in any surface water from any source.
    This initiative is irresponsible and a direct threat to my livelihood. [b]Any public figure who supports this, even for tactical reasons, does not belong in office.[/b]”[/i]

    Don’t mince words Don . . . tell us how you really feel.

  37. Sue Greenwald

    [b]@Don Shor[/b]

    While I don’t think that Ernie’s initiative is workable, I also don’t understand your argument that delaying the surface water project for 20 years would decrease the supply of water (if that is what you have been saying).

    According to Graham Fogg, the aquifer is replenishing, and even any decrease in quality (i.e., more minerals in our deep aquifer) — not quantity, would be decades to centuries away. In addition, the we are seeing significant decreases in the total use of water in Davis. If we could negotiate a compromise with the RWRCB, I don’t see that we would have a problem with the quantity of water. Ultra-high rates could, in fact, lead many people to just pave over their yards, lay down bark over plastic as they are already doing in my neighborhood (I don’t know whether selling bark is a major part of landscaping business or not).

    That said, I would hope that we could defer out wastewater treatment plant rather than the surface water project, but I still don’t see how deferring the surface water project would effect the landscaping business.

  38. Sue Greenwald

    [quote]ERM: “The Vanguard believes that previous councils erred by not ramping up spending over the last decade, but then turns around and advocates for not ramping up spending over the next decade!” — [b]E. Roberts Musser[/b][/quote]I agree with David, and I think that he is making a very good point about increasing rates ahead of the project. There is a big difference between increasing rates before money is spent and increasing rates after money is spent, due to the time value of money. Once we issue bonds to start the project, we have to start paying about $10 million a year in interest. If we banked the money in advance that we collected through only moderate rate increases, money banked could make a huge dent in the payments when the project is begun. This is true of either the wastewatere project or the surface water project.

  39. Don Shor

    “In most any city where groundwater is the sole source of drinking water and landscape water, however, it is possible for demand to grow to the point that groundwater overdraft occurs. In that case, the aquifer system would not dry up and blow away, but there would be more severe restrictions on water use, like vastly reducing landscape watering, which is a large but non-essential part of the water demand. (I realize, it’s an uphill battle in N. CA to get people more accustomed to lack of green grass, but since landscape watering in this part of the world is the largest part of the urban water budget, this issue will be receiving more and more attention.)”

    –Dr. Graham Fogg, quoted on Rich Rifkin’s blog.

    You have never addressed my concern that your proposal would amount to taking the current pumping from the deep aquifer from 2300 a-f (UCD) to 5300 a-f (UCD incl West Village, currently allowed) to another 8000 a-f for the City of Davis to replace the 57% of our water supply that is selenium-heavy.
    Or simply to replace the oldest wells.
    Maximum total change in deep aquifer pumping: 13300 / 2300.
    That is a 578% increase in pumping. Let’s be conservative and say you only need to replace part of that. Maybe only a 300% increase in pumping from the deep aquifer.
    What metric are you going to use to determine that we are doing ok with that aquifer? The City/UCD groundwater management plan has a number of monitoring requirements for the current use of deep aquifer water. Have you looked at those? When will it suddenly be necessary to reduce deep aquifer pumping due to increased nitrate contamination, increased salinity contamination, or measurable subsidence? When that happens, what is likely to be the first management tool to kick in? Reduced water supply. Like “vastly reduced landscape watering.”
    With your proposal, significantly more pumping would occur from the deep aquifer in order to dilute out the selenium and replace aging infrastructure. You haven’t addressed this concern.

    Ernie Head and Jim Steven’s initiative would be far worse. It would constrain the city from even replacing existing wells. I can see how the populace would have to vote on every modification to the existing infrastructure, one well at a time. High-selenium wells will probably have to be taken off-line, starting in 2015. If they can’t be replaced, water supply will simply dwindle.

    “Ultra-high rates could, in fact, lead many people to just pave over their yards, lay down bark over plastic as they are already doing in my neighborhood.”
    We are already helping people replace their lawns. I can deal with that. People do get used to higher water rates if they are phased in; there are ways to structure the rates to reduce the impact. And it is possible to have attractive landscapes with less water. A 20% reduction of water use is very simple. Go from dwarf fescue to fine fescue if you want to have a lawn with 20% less water. Just one example. Or you can look at lists like this and choose your plants accordingly: [url]http://redwoodbarn.com/droughttolerant.html[/url]
    But what is frustrating is that all of this is solved by an abundant supply of water that is flowing by twenty miles away.

  40. Sue Greenwald

    [b]Don Shor,[/b]

    Prof. Fogg’s statements are consistent with my sense that we could afford to wait twenty years to complete the surface water project if we have already acquired the water rights, if we can get a salinity variance, and if it were economically much more feasible to phase in the project. (Again, I am not saying that this would be my first choice).

    Graham Fogg said if a city relies solely on groundwater, that it is “POSSIBLE for the demand to grow to the point that groundwater overdraft occurs”. (Our demand has been falling, not growing, due to conservation).

    He also said that :[quote]The groundwater levels appear to be recovering more or less fully every year following the dry season, indicating it is not yet in overdraft with respect to water quantity.[/quote][quote]The changes in groundwater quality will not be sudden, but will likely continue on a decades to centuries time scale.[/quote]At the current point in time, groundwater needs very little treatment at all. River water needs huge amounts of treatment. Prof. Fogg pointed out that if groundwater quality were to degrade (in decades to centuries), it could be treated, much as river water needs to be treated, but that this costs money (i.e., treating groundwater isn’t something that we want to do, but there is no need to panic.)

    He says that we should “jump at the chance” to secure water rights, which we have already done. He also says that: [quote]If the Board really will be requiring that Davis reduce drastically its salt load from wastewater discharged into the Delta watershed, then the only viable alternative I am aware of is for Davis to reduce the salt content in its drinking and landscape water by using substantially more Sac. R. water, which is much lower in dissolved salts.[/quote]This is the point I am making. Whether we absolutely must complete the surface water project in the next few years depends primarily on whether the WRCB really requires us to drastically reduce the salinity, regardless of the financial feasibility of doing do.

    I agree with Prof. Fogg. Since we have secured our surface water rights, the only emergency we are dealing with is the salinity regulations. Otherwise, we could certainly consider phasing in the project to make it more economically feasible.

    And there is potential leeway on the salinity regulations if we don’t drag our feet.

  41. Sue Greenwald

    Regarding selenium, I don’t think it would be as difficult to meet the limits as you do. You seem so certain, but staff hasn’t figured it out yet and I was discussing it with our most knowledgeable staff member only last week.

    I explained to you in previous discussions why I suspect we would not need much more dilution to meet our selenium levels. I don’t agree with your assumptions at all, and I have already explained why.

    So I will just refer you back to our previous rather detailed, numbers- heavy discussion and wait until I get more information from staff that can support or refute my provisional fact-based hunch.

  42. Don Shor

    You are mixing overall demand (intermediate plus deep aquifer) with demand on the deep aquifer.
    The demand that he is referring to is the demand on the deep aquifer. You are proposing that we substantially change our water source from the intermediate aquifer to the deep aquifer. Your proposal would also make it necessary for UC Davis to go to the deep aquifer for longer than the ten years that they propose to import Solano water.
    The demand on the deep aquifer will grow substantially under any scenario that you are proposing (other than your recent suggestion that we revisit the idea of delaying the wastewater treatment instead of the surface project)
    You are advocating doubling, tripling, quadrupling, or quintupling (take your pick) the pumping from the deep aquifer.
    Please look at the City of Davis/UC Davis Groundwater Management Plan:
    [url]http://davismerchants.org/water/DavisGroundwaterManagementplan.pdf[/url]

    Note that this involved monitoring and actions triggered by various impacts the current well proposals might have on the deep aquifer. Note that the management plan assumes that the surface water project will go forward. Some of the triggers lead to reduction of water supply, among other actions.

    Your plan to go to the deep aquifer carries substantial risks.

    I will be interested in your numbers about selenium, but I think they will only, if anything, reduce for a period the number of wells that would have to be drilled. But that still overlooks the issue that a dozen of the city’s wells are already at or past their expected lifespan. Your plan would require replacing them solely due to age (selenium and salinity notwithstanding) in any case, or coasting along trying to squeeze more years out of them. And hoping the continued subsidence that your plan allows wouldn’t damage them irreparably. Whereas if the surface water project is brought on line, a smaller number of old wells would be replaced, and there would be little urgency to it since the groundwater would be for backup.

  43. Don Shor

    And, of course, you assume that we would be able to negotiate access to this very large increase in pumping from the deep aquifer with UC Davis.
    At the very least, a new EIR and significant mitigation of potential impact on the deep aquifer would be required. Why did UC Davis have to develop a surface plan to mitigate the impact of going from 2300 to 5300 a-f for West Village?

  44. Matt Williams

    Don Shor said . . .

    “You’re talking about adding several thousand more acre-feet to that pumping, and undoing the mitigation that UC Davis developed based on the assumption that the surface project would be available in ten years.”

    12,000 gallons per minute is what needs to be added if we were to retire the high selenium intermediate wells.

  45. Don Shor

    The numbers that I am using for selenium are those in our current dischage permit:
    [url]http://davismerchants.org/water/CityofDavisdischargepermit2010.pdf[/url]

  46. Sue Greenwald

    Don,
    Your conclusions cannot be determined from the information in this permit.

    I spend a great deal of time talking to staff last week at both the city and at the regional board. Staff doesn’t have the answers and neither do you.

  47. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]No, it’s not ancient history but rather recent and still on-going. The Council’s ‘lowering’ of the rate increase was a direct result of the referendum signature-gathering campaign. [/quote]

    No it wasn’t. It was a result of a citizen advisory committee…

  48. Matt Williams

    davisite2 said . . .

    [i]”No, it’s not ancient history but rather recent and still on-going.”[/i]

    d2, please give me an example of how it is ongoing.

    davisite2 said . . .

    [i]”The Council’s ‘lowering’ of the rate increase was a direct result of the referendum signature-gathering campaign. The probable passage of the proposed initiative will, no doubt, focus the Council’s “attention” even more.”[/i]

    I’m confused. Are you saying that Harrington, et.al. started collecting refferendum signatures prior to September 6th?

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