Davis’ Mayor Joe Krovoza writes in an op-ed, “No Davis issue has aroused as much passion and debate in recent years as the Measure I campaign.”
And while he might be forgetting past city debates on land use and other issues of passion, Measure I is certainly up there in terms of scrutiny, debate and intensity. He adds, “As is certainly the case for every citizen, the future of our community water supply is of intense interest to my fellow council members and me. “
“Weighing heavily on all of us has been balancing our community’s need for a better source of water with the project costs and our fiduciary responsibility as civic leaders,” the mayor adds. “We have all looked for the optimal long-term solution to bring reliable and clean water to our community.”
At the core he argues that there is one “unshakable truth” that remains: “There is no lower cost, true solution; there is no way to protect our groundwater without an assist from the Sacramento River; our environmental values dictate that we accept our responsibility to discharge clean water into our waterways and wetlands.”
As WAC Chair Elaine Roberts Musser argued in a piece co-written by Helen Thomson, Jerry Adler, Alf Brandt, Steve Boschken, Jim West and Jane Rundquist, “The objective of the Woodland-Davis surface water project is to create a safe, sustainable and reliable source of clean water for our community.”
“Many extremely qualified experts testified before the Water Advisory Committee, a group of knowledgeable citizens tasked to look closely at the water issue in Davis,” they wrote in an op-ed from early February. “Every one of those experts who spoke before the WAC agreed Davis needs a conjunctive-use project, using both ground and surface water. Every single WAC member concurred with a conjunctive-use project, in a unanimous vote.”
Their core argument was that if Davis failed to implement this project, “the city would not be acting in a fiscally responsible manner.”
Toward that end, they argued, “The city of Davis cannot sustain its present course of action. The city has been borrowing money on an existing line of credit to pay for its crumbling water infrastructure. This is because necessary water rate increases have been put on hold while decisions are being made on the best course of action.”
“Wells had to be taken off line because of contamination or subsidence problems,” they noted, before Well 30 was taken off line due to contamination.
They argued that delay would result in escalated costs for construction and financing, as the current economic downturn has led to “an enormously favorable bidding climate for a large project of this type.”
“The city needs to take advantage of these conditions and exploit that benefit to the fullest,” they argue.
Moreover, “If voters fail to approve the surface water project, Davis runs the risk of being out of compliance with federal and state regulatory requirements now and in the future. The policy and legal trends are toward more stringent water quality and wastewater discharge requirements to protect the environment.”
“Regionally partnering with Woodland makes sound economical sense. It is of mutual benefit to both cities, saving each of them a considerable amount of money,” they continue.
Moreover, the size and scope of the project has been reduced.
“The result has been to decrease costs considerably to the customer. Davis is paying only its fair share of the Woodland-Davis Surface Water Project, the portion the WAC itself requested and deemed equitable,” they argue.
“The days of ‘cheap’ water in California are over,” they continue. “The fact is that every community in California must grapple with ever more stringent federal and state regulatory standards. Drought, the collapse of wells and subsidence are serious considerations that all municipalities must take into account as well. If Davis doesn’t have a safe, reliable and sustainable supply of clean water, then homes, schools, parks, businesses, all property values and the entire local economy will suffer as a result.”
They quote from Graham Fogg, the UC Davis professor of hydrology who testified before the WAC.
“When I came to Davis 23 years ago, there was a prevailing view that the water quality in the intermediate aquifer was invulnerable because there was layer after layer of clay and silt overlaying the aquifer, and that groundwater recovers every year. … In the ’90s, I started predicting what was going to be happening to water quality … and unfortunately my predictions are coming true,” he told the WAC.
“We are seeing deeper and deeper migration of contamination,” he said. “I’ve seen it before. The thinking then was it is a big confined aquifer, it’s protected, and it’s invulnerable.”
“But guess what?” he continued. “At the rate of about … a well every two years … for the past 15 years in Davis, you’re seeing adverse impacts. … So … I do hate to see a mistake made twice. … I think it would be a mistake to assume that the deep aquifer is invulnerable, will stay clean indefinitely …”
Ms. Musser, et al. argue, “As a consequence of independent expert testimony and after extensive committee deliberations, the WAC unanimously approved a conjunctive-use project. Other options were thoroughly investigated in an exhaustive process. The Woodland-Davis Surface Water Project was determined to be the best alternative. The City Council unanimously agreed. To delay is to ignore community consensus and the facts, endangering our future water supply for generations to come.”
“Given the WAC’s work, there can’t be any misunderstanding: this project is needed, and now,” Mayor Joe Krovoza argues.
“The cities will own and control the project. Period. We aren’t giving up ownership or control. We will contract for the plant’s operation – with full ability to cancel the contract if there are problems,” he continues. “Costs will be lower and ratepayers will have greater certainty. We make contracts like this for many city services like parks maintenance, garbage and recycling. Be assured, privatization concerns based on experiences in other communities will be protected against in our contracts.”
“Recent events have reinforced my view that continued long-term and exclusive reliance on either our intermediate or deep aquifer is irresponsible,” he wrote.
He continued, “In recent years, our 14 intermediate aquifer wells have continued to suffer degradation due to increased contamination. Since 2003, the City has had to take five wells offline because of excessive levels of nitrates, selenium, and total chromium. Our remaining intermediate aquifer wells have seen consistently increasing nitrate levels for the past ten years.”
“Some have suggested we can rely solely on our deep aquifer,” he wrote. “That, too, would come at great cost and uncertainty. While the deep aquifer does not have the same problem with contamination due to nitrates, selenium and chromium-6, our deep aquifer suffers with excessive levels of manganese.”
He noted that Well 30 was taken offline due to manganese contamination.
In summary, he argues, “Davis must not spend money on a system that doesn’t promise us a long-term fix.”
He concludes, “A YES vote on Measure I brings us surface water for the majority of our water needs, employing only deep aquifer wells for backup and peak summer needs. This is why our citizens’ Water Advisory Committee overwhelmingly recommended the proposed cost-saving partnership with Woodland.”
“This is why every local elected official who represents Davis has endorsed Measure I,” the mayor writes.
—David M. Greenwald reporting