Measure I is good for the environment

By From page A6 | February 20, 2013

The UC Davis Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology has researched the environmental and conservation implications of Measure I and would like to encourage the public to vote yes.

City of Davis wastewater is discharged into Willow Slough and the Yolo Bypass, which support both agriculture and wildlife. Current groundwater supplies contain high levels of salts and heavy metals, including boron, selenium and hexavalent chromium 1. These levels are increasing and will soon fail water-quality standards.

These metals, while naturally occurring, cause serious harm to fish, invertebrates and the birds and mammals that prey on them. Deformities in birds and marine mammals of the Bay-Delta area have already been linked to chemicals in wastewater discharge. Given the importance of the Yolo Bypass as water bird habitat, it is unconscionable to discharge toxic wastewater into the system, as will inevitably occur without the surface water project.

The planned surface water project will divert and treat water from the Sacramento River, making it cleaner and safer for both human consumption and the ecosystem to which it is returned. The intake is expected to have minimal impacts on the hydrologic conditions of the river and the delta, as the diversion will only be 46,100 acre-feet per year. This is a very small quantity when compared to the average Sacramento River flows of about 22 million acre-feet.

In addition, diversions will be adjusted when necessary to avoid conflict with other water management objectives, including previous water contracts and mandated flows for listed species habitat. However, we should be aware that while small, the cumulative effects of many small diversions can have a larger impact; during the years from 1968 to 2005, approximately 26 percent of the annual flows were diverted from the Sacramento River for consumptive use. Therefore, the project should not be taken on its own, but as part of a package with water conservation at its core.

All alternatives to the plan, including continuing to use groundwater, could involve significantly higher monetary and environmental costs. Also, the project will provide a long-term reduction in both environmental toxins and greenhouse gas emissions.

Rosemary Hartman
UC Davis Society for Conservation Biology, Davis

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