Measure I and the continuation of growth in Davis

Sacramento-River-stockby Steve Daubert

The city of Davis has been growing unsustainably. In the nineteen sixties, the city had a population of 16,000 souls. Since then, it has been growing by 50% every ten years – one of the fastest growth rates in the state. The population passed 54,000 in the 1990s, and would have continued on that pace, had not the voters slowed the expansion of the city with the passage of Measure J in 2000.

The aquifer of ground water below us is still sufficient to support the city as it now stands. We would only exceed our resource base if we choose to resume the rapid growth rate of the last century. State law SB 610 (adopted in 2003)) now integrates land use and water planning, and precludes us from embarking on such unsustainable growth. However, the construction of a three hundred million plus dollar water purification plant (or more, depending on the financing and on cost-over-runs) to the northwest of town could open the way to renewed city expansion.

This further expansion will not be self-sustaining, but will be subsidized, by the utility rate payers of the city. Davis household water bills will be increasing a thousand dollars each, per year, or more, in order to subsidize this continued city growth.

A map drawn for the city (1) outlines this resumption of the expansion of Davis. Green boundaries on that map extend the current city outlines off to the east, northeast, and northwest. They mark the new acreage where the river water would allow further development. (The same map shows that Woodland will have the potential to double, using the river water source.)

The cost of this water can be predicted to rise. The treatment plant will use extensive amounts of energy to generate ozone for on-site disinfection of the water, to pull the water from the river, and to move it miles over-land. The cost of that energy is going to rise. The pollution in the river that the proposed purification plant would be dealing with will rise, driving treatment costs up with the increase in the industries and the numbers of people living on the watershed that drains into the riverbed. If EPA-regulated toxins in the water rise past mandated levels, new and more costly purification procedures will have to be implemented at the expense of the city – an expense to be passed down to the utility rate-payers. If future competition for water curtails diversions from the Sacramento River, a Davis grown to depend on imported water would face shortages.

A very small segment of the population here will profit handsomely from the development the water pipe would allow. Most of us will suffer a net loss, through increases in our fees and taxes. More agricultural land, e.g, north out to Rd 29 and beyond, will be converted to housing tracts. The voters of Davis will decide if they want to follow our leaders’ non-sustainable directions. But those voters may do the math and see that, in order to have softer water from the tap, it would be much cheaper to buy bottled than to pay an extra thousand dollars a year or more in utility fees.

(1) City of Woodland, City of Davis. Map to accompany water right application No. 30358 points of diversion, transmission pipelines and places of use. West Yost Associates. March 2011

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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22 Comments

  1. SODA

    Could the author ‘bio’ be included in cases such as this article? Was it printed somewhere else? I would appreciate both as a uniform way of presenting articles which are not by David or interns. Comments?

  2. Mr.Toad

    Of course in 1960 there were only 3 billion people in the world and UC Davis had a much smaller number of students. When we educate people the chance that they will have fewer children increases reducing the burden they will place on the planets sustainability.

    Today UC Davis alone has more than twice the population the City of Davis had in the “60’s” as you claim. You claim that our growth is”unsustainable” but offer no supporting evidence of what you mean by that term.

    It seems you would prefer that Davis stop growing thus denying the important role our world class public university plays in the greater scheme of things. Are you trying to argue that we would be better off with a much smaller community that can only support a much smaller university?

  3. Don Shor

    [i]”The aquifer of ground water below us is still sufficient to support the city as it now stands.”[/i]

    Per Dr. Fogg, at the Saturday forum:
    “When I arrived here in the late 80’s the notion was that the water quality in the shallow and intermediate depth aquifers … were invulnerable to contamination. As I’ve lived in the area I’ve seen increasing contamination of those aquifers.
    If you produce more water from the deep aquifers contamination will move down …
    In terms of the water quantity the source of the water in the deep aquifer is not known. …
    We don’t know what the capacity of that system is to handle water supply for the campus and the city.”

    There are many issues with continued reliance on the ground water. Even if the amount was sufficient (it isn’t), continued use of it is neither sustainable nor responsible. Moreover, when we send it down the drain we’re polluting the Delta. Local environmental groups support Measure I.

  4. Ryan Kelly

    So, it is true that the primary reason the No on I folks are willing to put up with deterioration of the quality of our water, and continuing to pay for an unsustainable water system, and throw money into a more expensive waste water treatment plant is to have a tool to thwart any growth in Davis. It doesn’t matter that Woodland and West Sacramento are going forward with their projects. They are ignoring the fact that we will have no say in what either of these cities do with their water.

    This could be a Pinky and the Brain episode.

  5. David M. Greenwald

    Ryan: I think you really need to appreciate the fact that the No on I folks are more of a loose coalition than possess any kind of cohesive philosophy.

  6. Don Shor

    People often ask me what brought me to Davis. The university, of course. So I guess I would ask Steve Daubert the same question.
    A town that hosts a university doesn’t completely control its own growth. The campus grows, and while we might like the university to align its growth and population with the city’s planning process — we all know that doesn’t happen. The chancellor has announced growth plans of several thousand more students, and this year’s enrollment is right on track with that. So where do we propose they live, where do we propose their water come from, and what can be done to help create more affordable housing here?
    Those of us who came and settled here because of the university aren’t really in a position to declare that it’s time to seal the borders and cease growth. I have been an advocate of slow growth, not no growth. Even with growth less than .5%, we will need to augment the existing water supply.

  7. JustSaying

    I agree, SODA. (Geez, twice today.) This basic information would be helpful. And is Steve part of any “no” group?

    David: “Ryan: I think you really need to appreciate the fact that the No on I folks are more of a loose coalition than possess any kind of cohesive philosophy.”

    Why appreciate this, even assuming that it’s much different than the “yes” folks? I realize there’s probably many more in the second loose coalition than the first. What accommodation do you want made for their looseness?

    Since the “no” spokespeople refused to answer the question about its supporters at your debate, it’s difficult to measure the “cohesiveness” of their coalition. But they seem pretty much glued together to the same arguments. Some, obviously, also appear to be loose cannons.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    “What accommodation do you want made for their looseness?”

    That is in fact the key question.

    Here is what Ryan wrote:

    [quote]So, it is true that the primary reason the No on I folks are willing to put up with deterioration of the quality of our water, and continuing to pay for an unsustainable water system, and throw money into a more expensive waste water treatment plant is to have a tool to thwart any growth in Davis. [/quote]

    That may be a reason for some No on I people, but why assume it is the primary reason for all No on I people?

  9. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > Ryan: I think you really need to appreciate
    > the fact that the No on I folks are more of
    > a loose coalition than possess any kind of
    > cohesive philosophy.

    I don’t think that anyone will deny that there are a lot of “It worked in Bolinas lets restrict the water supply to restrict growth” people in the No on I camp…

    Then Mr. Toadd wrote:

    > When we educate people the chance that they
    > will have fewer children increases reducing
    > the burden they will place on the planets
    > sustainability.

    It is true that there is a correlation between educated people and small families (Bob Dunning who has two degrees from UCD and two entire sets of kids is an exception to this), but I don’t think that education is the causation of small families. Smart (I want to do something with my life) people tend to go to college while dumb (I want to have sex without a condom before my next drug deal) people don’t go to college very often. My friend a UCD professor always wanted one kid he did not start out wanting 5 kids dropping to 4 after high school, 3 after undergrad, 2 after his masters and 1 while working on his PhD. thesis at Stanford. This weekend they were talking about Ray Lewis of the Ravens a college graduate who has six kids (with four different baby mamas)…

  10. Ryan Kelly

    [quote]David: “That may be a reason for some No on I people, but why assume it is the primary reason for all No on I people?” [/quote]

    That is a reasonable question, David. Some people just don’t want to pay more for their water service, regardless of any other consideration. However, for the identified endorsers of No on I, I would say that stopping growth is a primary consideration for most.

  11. medwoman

    Mr.Toad

    [quote]It seems you would prefer that Davis stop growing thus denying the important role our world class public university plays in the greater scheme of things. Are you trying to argue that we would be better off with a much smaller community that can only support a much smaller university?[/quote]

    I do not think that preferring that Davis stop growing is synonymous with denying the important role of our world class public university. Many universities are located near quite small communities or as my daughter put it when she was applying, some of the best schools are “out in the middle of ‘nowhere’. ”

    I do not think that I am alone in saying that it was the University that drew me to Davis initially. However, it was the warm, small town atmosphere of Davis that brought me back here to raise my family and build my practice. I think there needs to be a balance between the needs of the university students, the full time residents and local businesses. I do not think that deliberately restricting the availability of the precious resource that is water simply because there is no current emergency and with the intent of preventing further growth is a legitimate tactic.

    I remain a slow growth adovcate in favor of Measure I.

  12. dlemongello

    Let us not be naive. To advocate for slow growth and believe therefore that is what will happen is idealistic. I think I just realized why I am having such a hard time with this decision. It’s a catch 22. I acknowledge we need to be responsible stewards and not overuse the aquifer, but the phenomena of which this article warns have happened over and over again in CA. Let the taxpayers pay to bring water and the landowners reap massive unfathomable profits. This is not some wacky fear, it is well based in history.

  13. medwoman

    [quote]To advocate for slow growth and believe therefore that is what will happen is idealistic[/quote]

    I do not believe that slow growth will happen because I personally advocate for it. I believe that slow growth will happen when enough voters oppose proposed developments on a case by case basis. I do not believe it is right to use the resource of water as a stranglehold on the ability to develop at the cost of the environment, possible future water supply and the financial future of our children who will still need water at an ever increasing cost after we are gone.

    Although i hated what I perceived as the ageist post on a previous thread, as a senior myself, I believe it is fair to say that I believe that a number the opponents of Measure I are indeed seniors who regardless of their own economic situations are certainly not thinking beyond their personal times here to what the situation may look like in 20 to 50 years. Are we really so self centered that we cannot think beyond our immediate preferences.
    Does anyone really foresee a time when water is going to be less expensive in the valley ?

  14. jimt

    Although increased water supply need not, at least in theory, inevitably lead to increased development and population growth; in practice it does, at a minimum, help to enable it.
    There are several barriers to development around Davis; water supply being a key one. With plentiful water assured; that is one less barrier to development. The pressure for development will be steady and relentless, there is simply too much money to be made. Some of our present and future city council will undoubtably have informal meetings with developers and their allies; many of whom are very charming and reasonable, responsible, etc., no doubt.

    That said; I don’t know that I’m opposed to the water project; seems that it might be prudent to ease the strain on the aquifers, and have assurance the aquifers in good shape for future times of need (i.e. major droughts, etc.)

  15. jimt

    This article and our situation re: water in Davis is a perfect and clear case study of consequences of increasing population in general, on planet earth.

    Each year, the population of planet earth has been (and will continue to, for at least the next couple of decades) increasing by about 80,000,000 per year; or over 1.5 million people each and every week of each and every year. Nearly all of the best land and most of the best available water in most areas of the world is being used for agricultural production and is being tapped out for water. The richest ores and easy-to-get oil has mostly all been mined or tapped. There are plenty of remaining ore and hydrocarbon deposits, but almost all of them are less concentrated and more difficult and expensive to get at.

    I suspect that if Davis population had leveled out in the 1990s, and if some incentives for reduction in water use had been implemented (such that water use per unit population decreased by 20% or so); we would be fine in continuing to use groundwater; and there would be no need for a very expensive surface water project. Our children and grandchildren will be facing many such compromises in the future; as a growing population and continuing pressure on dwindling resources continues. We are not leaving them an easier future; and yet we could have. This is another consequence of the influence of big business on government; who have enabled huge numbers of immigrants, both illegal and legal, to flood the country in order to increase the supply and thus decrease the cost of all labor. Too bad we didn’t have more moderate policies, in terms of immigration. I don’t mean to make this an anti-immigration diatribe so much as a population diatribe; in order to maintain quality of life in the USA we must stabilize the population; which means controlling immigration (so that there is very little illegal immigration) and reducing the number of legal permits for legal immigration (not eliminating, but reducing). Imagine a country that does not continue to get more crowded and congested; and where we can afford to have nice vegetation in our gardens that are not all desert or ‘drought tolerant’ plants!

  16. David M. Greenwald

    The Slow Growthers fear I believe is that once the economy returns and the pressure to develop returns, sure they can defeat the first Measure J/ R project, but can they defeat the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 50th project? Measure P in the heart of the recession was not a close call, but Covell Village even with the 60-40 split, was.

  17. JustSaying

    And, of course, that is the problem with the “Slow Growthers” who will fight everything that could improve life for Davis residents in order to keep others out. Interesting that the fear that the council might not cooperate has been replaced by the fear that the public will might end up turning against them sometime in the next 50 votes. So, let’s put up every barrier so we can to assure that citizens won’t approve any future Measure J/R proposal. How democratic.

  18. Mr.Toad

    So you are suggesting that the no growth advocates want to go for 50 straight project defeats? I’d actually like someone to admit it because they have up until now claimed they aren’t opposed to every development plan but then they oppose them all for one reason or another.

  19. Mr.Toad

    ” This is another consequence of the influence of big business on government; who have enabled huge numbers of immigrants, both illegal and legal, to flood the country in order to increase the supply and thus decrease the cost of all labor.”

    Otra desgraciado loco.

    Vota si’ en I. Agua puro para la gente y para los ninos. Bienvenidos a Davis. Lo siento, ustedes han sido aqui desde antes de Universidad.

  20. wesley506

    [quote]Although i hated what I perceived as the ageist post on a previous thread, as a senior myself, I believe it is fair to say that I believe that a number the opponents of Measure I are indeed seniors who regardless of their own economic situations are certainly not thinking beyond their personal times here to what the situation may look like in 20 to 50 years[/quote]
    And how many seniors do you think would have voted for the school bond measures if they knew they they would not be excluded from paying for them?

  21. Mr.Toad

    “And how many seniors do you think would have voted for the school bond measures if they knew they they would not be excluded from paying for them?”

    Hopefully all of them so they can be secure in their old age supported by a prosperous, vibrant, well educated younger generation.

  22. wesley506

    [quote]Hopefully all of them so they can be secure in their old age supported by a prosperous, vibrant, well educated younger generation.[/quote]

    If this is true, we should have no problem getting all of them to support the elimination of prop 13!!

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