Ballot Arguments Submitted on Measure P, the Water Initiative

Proponents of the Water Initiative turned in signatures in January
Proponents of the Water Initiative turned in signatures in January

Friday was the filing deadline for the ballot initiatives.  The major races that the Vanguard is covering are all extended until Wednesday because there is no incumbent filing for one of the city council seats, the Yolo County Superior Court Judge seat, the Yolo County Superintendent of Schools, and the State Assembly.

The sales tax is now known as Measure O and the water initiative is Measure P.  The Vanguard is publishing the ballot arguments for and against on both, plus Ernie Head’s argument for the water initiative that is not official.

Argument in Favor of Measure P

The argument in Favor of Measure P was signed by John Munn, Pam Nieberg, Michael Harrington, Sue Greenwald, and Mark Siegler.

Argument in Favor of Measure P City of Davis

The new water rate structure, called consumption-based,fixed rate (CBFR), is extremely unfair to residents of single-family homes, who will pay much more per gallon of water than other users.

With CBFR, the cost per gallon of water is largely determined by summer water use. This shifts the costs to single-family residents who must irrigate to keep trees healthy and keep Davis green. Maintaining a healthy tree canopy and other urban greenery also removes large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

If CBFR is not repealed, by 2018 the average homeowner and single-family tenant will be paying almost 40% more than apartment landlords for each gallon of water. Shifting the cost of this expensive new water project onto single-family homeowners and renters is not fair. If a given single-family home uses twice as much water as units without yards, such a unit should pay only twice as much. Under the CBFR system, it will pay substantially more than that.  Any rate structure that relies on the previous year’s usage should be based on total annual water use.

The overall cost of city services is becoming extraordinarily high. The new water project will triple most water bills by 2018, with further increases to follow. At the same time, ratepayers will be paying for the new wastewater treatment plant.

Making matters worse, the city, school district, and some neighborhoods and future developments plan to opt out of this expensive system by drilling new wells or using existing intermediate wells for irrigation. This will further increase costs for remaining ratepayers, who cannot opt out, and will exacerbate the inequity of CBFR costs imposed on single-family homeowners and renters.

Vote Yes on Measure P to repeal CBFR water rates. We need a fairer rate structure.


The argument against Measure P was filed by the entire Davis City Council: Mayor Joe Krovoza, Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk, Council Members Lucas Frerichs, Brett Lee and Rochelle Swanson.

Argument Against Measure P

Two years ago, after considerable public input and deliberation, our Water Advisory Committee recommended the best water rate structure for Davis. The City Council then approved new rates in December 2012, and these rates were confirmed via a Proposition 218 public notification process that concluded March 2013. This January, the Yolo County Superior Court upheld these rates as constitutional.

Opponents of these approved rates are challenging them yet again. We urge you to Vote “No” to end the delay tactics. We must move forward smoothly with the city’s water supply project at the lowest possible long-term cost.

The new rates are based on a simple and just idea: Everyone pays their fair share, both for the water they use, and for the system that brings it to them. The new system promotes fairness for those who don’t use much water—often seniors, low-income residents, and those in apartments or with small lots. In Davis, approximately two-thirds of residential ratepayers will pay less under the new rate structure than they would have under a rate structure like the one we used to have.

The approved rates create strong incentives for conservation, without penalizing you with rate hikes when you conserve.

The current severe drought underscores our need to carefully protect our water resources. Our new water supply project exemplifies this wise strategy: 1) diversifying our supply to include Sacramento River water; 2) continuing use of our higher-quality deep wells when necessary; 3) repurposing lower-quality wells for park irrigation; and 4) reducing your need for inefficient home treatment systems.

Our approved water rates ensure that basic water needs are served while incentives to conserve remain strong. Your “No” vote advances these values.

Please Vote “No” on Measure P to continue our progress toward a clean and reliable long-term water supply.


Ernie Head’s Argument in Favor of Measure P

Ernie Head also turned in a ballot argument in favor of Measure P, but because the other argument had five signers, the city clerk accepted that as the official statement.

The current water rates are not affordable and the rate system is not understood by a majority of the rate payers.  Also, the water rates will get a lot worse in the next 3 or 4 years.  If you would like to repeal those unfair rates and demand a more equitable rate system, then by all means, you should vote YES ON MEASURE P.

Do you know that it requires only 1% of your rate charges to pay for the water your family will be (ingesting) consuming?  The remaining 99% of your rate charges will pay for the water which is used for sanitation and irrigation purposes.

Most of which will be irrigation.  These uses do not require treated water.  If that is allowed to happen it will be the greatest waste of our financial resources that has ever occurred.

It is up to the voters.  Please don’t let it happen.

Vote Yes on Measure P

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Ryan Kelly

    Upper middle class residents with big yards want lower class residents to pay more to support a the larger system required to provide water for their larger use. We have tiers to prevent this unfairness. I hope the voters see this and vote NO on this initiative.

  2. Tia Will

    “Everyone pays their fair share, both for the water they use, and for the system that brings it to them. The new system promotes fairness for those who don’t use much water—often seniors, low-income residents, and those in apartments or with small lots. In Davis, approximately two-thirds of residential ratepayers will pay less under the new rate structure than they would have under a rate structure like the one we used to have.”

    This is by far the most compelling argument for me. This is not simply a matter of paying for the water we use, but also paying for the necessary delivery system. And here is the crux of the issues. Those who are now promoting measure P are for the most part the same folks that have attempted to block the water project at every step. It is now becoming more and more clear that water is a precious commodity. We have as a society rarely thought about the cost of our water making the assumption that it would always be plentiful and relatively inexpensive.

    What we are facing now is the need to secure our sources and fairly pay for both the water itself and the necessary infrastructure to deliver it. While we may not like this newly perceived reality, it is clear that we need to move this process along as quickly and efficiently as possible. I will be joining Ryan in a NO vote on measure P.

  3. Mr. Toad

    Searching the database at three of the five signers of Yes on P can be found and the spouse of a fourth is listed too. It seems, based on the public information provided, they can all afford their water bills. This calls into question what is the real agenda of these petitioners?

          1. Mr. Toad

            Water applies to everyone. Why don’t you let them answer. Okay I’ll do it for them.

            Even though the opponents have good pensions in one case a married couple who are big in the scene have a combined pension of $117,000 a year. Perhaps they are too cheap. Perhaps they think its growth inducing. Perhaps they think we simply should live with the water quality we have. Whatever, but the argument that it is unaffordable is exploitive of those less fortunate than these pensioners and university employees and their spouses.

  4. Pam Gunnell

    First, the statement by the city that they can build a $113 million dollar water project and 2/3 of the ratepayers in the city will be pay less, is scary. Can I see the math on that?

    It may be that signers of the Yes on P have decent pensions or salaries, but I am not sure why that is a point of contention. The wealthiest neighborhoods can opt out by using their own wells whereas as modest homes in East Davis cannot, and no one is decrying that. A senior in a home on a fixed income may pay more than their neighbor who can afford to travel all summer. It is so arbitrary.

    Basing rates on year round usage, not summer usage, is more fair, and bigger users would still pay more. The summer usage was put it place at the last minute by council and was not part of the original Williams/Loge rates I believe.

    1. Mr. Toad

      Its a point of contention because they are claiming the rates are unaffordable. Now I don’t claim to know their personal finances but its doubtful that any of these people will experience economic hardship as a result of the water project because they have their annuities, their home equity and most likely their deferred savings that if their age is greater than 70.5 they must tap any way’s. On top of everything else if the cost truly was a hardship they could apply for a senior discount.

      So my point is if they can afford the rates but are opposed what is the real reason, development opposition, a philosophical opposition to government, anti-privatization fetishes, what? It might just be inflation. My mother lived to be 86. She would tell me stories about when movies, candy bars and Coca-cola cost 5 cents. If I took her out she couldn’t believe how expensive things had become. Perhaps these seniors are suffering from the same future shock. Still they are protected because their pensions increase 2% a year automatically and they get additional increases should their pensions ever fall to 70% of their original value.

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