City: Water Well Levels Dropping; Conservation Measures

water-rate-iconby Stacey Winton

The City of Davis municipal well water levels have dropped 10 feet since 2008. This year, the March to July 2014 well water levels, dropped an average of 54 feet. A drop in water levels is typical in late summer. However, in the same period of 2013, wells dropped only 49 feet. “This year’s drop in static water levels in the city’s wells is concerning and reflects the high demand on groundwater in this region of Yolo County, coupled with the impact of the ongoing drought in California,” states the City’s General Manager of Utilities, Herb Niederberger, “Such a drop in water levels triggers water conservation as stipulated in the City’s Urban Water Management Plan.

Earlier this year, following the Governor’s initial drought proclamation, the Davis City Council passed a resolution calling for the voluntary water conservation of 20%. The City’s records show a 14% conservation rate when compared to the first six months of 2013.  “Clearly, Davis residents have responded well to the drought declaration, but we will need to do more.”

On July 28, 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) enacted emergency regulations to promote further conservation. The regulations require urban water suppliers (suppliers providing water to over 3,000 municipal customers or providing over 3,000 acre-feet per year to municipal customers) to activate their previously adopted Water Code-compliant Water Shortage Contingency Plans at the stage that imposes mandatory restrictions on outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf. In Davis, this would represent a Stage 3 water shortage emergency and calls for a mandatory reduction of 30%.

The new regulations also prohibit individuals from using potable water to wash driveways and sidewalks; water outdoor landscapes that cause excess runoff; wash a car with a hose without a shut-off nozzle; or operate a fountain or other decorative water features that does not recirculate water. Excess runoff includes situations where water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures. Violations are punishable by an infraction and up to a $500 fine for each day a violation occurs. Local agencies or the SWRCB may issue infractions and fines at their discretion. It is anticipated that such fines will likely be imposed through the authority and procedures in an urban water supplier’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan.

When the City Council returns from summer recess, they will discuss the mandatory conservation requirements and how they fit into existing city policies and requirements. The tentative date for this meeting is September 2. City Council agendas can be viewed at:

City’s Conservation Measures

City staff have been working to reduce the City’s water consumption by at least 20% with a goal of 40% reduction.  City water conservation measures already implemented and/or in process include:

Implemented deficit based watering rather than optimum irrigation

This results in less overall water consumption and less frequency of watering in parks and greenbelts.  Due to inconsistent uniformity in applying the water due to aging infrastructure, deficit watering can result in highly stressed areas in parks and greenbelts.  Staff are monitoring and attempting to repair all broken heads, lines and valves to improve overall uniformity and efficiency of all irrigation systems.

Implemented cycle soak programing for several irrigation systems

This programming results in a slower application of water over a longer period of time to help reduce run-off and allow the water to absorb more effectively into the turf and soil.  Several higher water volume heads (4 gallons/minute) have been reduced to smaller flow heads (1½ gallons/minute) to assist with a more even distribution of water.

Currently replacing standalone controllers with SMART or central-based controllers and implementing evapotranspiration (weather based) programs

26 controllers have been replaced in various parks and green belts to date, with an additional 75 anticipated to be installed by next spring.  The City currently has 285 irrigation controllers, with 130 of them being central based.

Evaluating current parks and greenbelt irrigation system performance uniformity and efficiency

This involves replacing damaged, aged and poor performing heads with high efficiency rotors. The City replaced about 400 heads and nozzles, with an estimated 1,500 heads and nozzles replacements anticipated by next spring.

In process of increasing staff time devoted to water conservation

This includes hiring a Water Conservation Specialist, re-assigning existing staff for ongoing irrigation repairs and replacement and expanding the landscape contractor’s irrigation responsibilities.

Added flow sensing with master valves to 20 of the existing controllers

This will help manage water consumption by providing “real time” high and low flow alarms as well as automatically shutting down irrigation systems for large line and mainline breaks.  The City plans to implement additional flow sensing where applicable.

The City retrofitted several parks, including Oak Grove, Whaleback and Chestnut Parks, with the new central-based controllers. The irrigation systems also received upgraded high efficiency rotors and nozzles

The City anticipates additional parks and greenbelts will reach full completion over the next several months with many completed by next spring.

Currently converting Community Park to well water rather than the City’s potable water system for irrigation

The City is also exploring other potential locations for well conversions, such as Northstar and Walnut Parks.

Conducting water audits and developing more refined annual water budgets for each park and greenbelt location 

Updated Water Conservation Program and Webpage

With low groundwater levels and another dry year predicted, the City of Davis is committed to working with the community to Save Davis Water. The City has launched, a new website that provides the community with conservation tips, rebates, workshop information, access to WaterInsight and more. The city encourages residents to share photos of creative conservation ideas and techniques. Pictures sent to may be featured on the website.

“Sustainability and conservation are important values in our community,” said Davis Mayor Dan Wolk. “We’re providing tools and resources for the community and are committed to reducing city water use in an effort to Save Davis Water together.”

To assist citizens in monitoring their water consumption, the City has partnered with WaterInsight. WaterInsight is a water efficiency solution company focused on reducing residential water use through behavioral science methodologies as well as integrating utility account and billing information with customer information, demographic, real estate and survey responses. WaterInsight provides each customer with simple, easy to understand consumption information and personalized water-saving actions based on their household’s unique profile. More information and how to sign up:

The City is also partnering with the Yolo County Master Gardeners on a series of water efficiency workshops. The first workshop will feature presentations from the Master Gardeners and Tree Davis. This will take place Saturday, September 27 at 10 a.m. at the Central Park Gardens in Davis. Topics include installing and maintaining existing smart irrigation, cost-effective ways to lower water use, drought-tolerant landscapes and caring for trees during a drought. Those wishing to attend must RSVP with their name and the number of attendees to by September 17.

Water conservation is a cost-effective and environmentally-sound way to reduce our demand for water. Using water carefully is always important. For most single family residential customers, focusing on outdoor water use can result in easy water savings. About 60%-70% of the water consumed during the summer months is used for landscape irrigation.

Inside the home, the most reliable way to reduce water use is to make sure you have water efficient appliances. Replacing toilets and clothes washers with more efficient models and using lower flow showerheads (2 gallons per minute or less) will reduce your overall water use year round. Also make sure that all your leaks are fixed and that lawns and gardens are not overwatered. For questions or to schedule a leak check or water use evaluation, call 530-757-5686 or email

Saving water is not only good for your pocketbook, but also will help reduce your carbon footprint.

Stacey Winton is the Media and Communications Officer for the City of Davis.  This was sent out as a press release.

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. eastdavis

    The prospects of groundwater overdraft are scary. Sure hope the new Davis Woodland water supply project includes groundwater recharge during times of water surplus.

  2. Pingback: City: Water Well Levels Dropping; Conservation ...

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