A decade ago, I sounded the alarm about the unsustainability of lowering the retirement age and enhancing the pension formula for our city employees. All the experts said it was no problem, and all of the elected officials supported the change, claiming we had no choice. But we did have choices, and we made a terrible mistake.
The city staff and consultants are not infallible. We barely averted another mistake when they recommended a wastewater treatment plant design that was $80 million to $100 million more expensive than necessary.
Now, we are in a similar position concerning this specific surface water proposal. We must change course and work toward a larger, regional alternative that would bring our per capita costs down. And we have the time.
A Stockton dentist on these pages inadvertently pointed out the flaw with the proposed project: Two small rural towns cannot afford to build a redundant project when there are surface water systems with excess capacity in the region. Davis per capita costs will be 2 1/2 times more expensive than the per capita costs of the controversial and costly Stockton surface water project. Combined with the cost of our required new wastewater treatment plant, Davis citizens will have among the very highest water/sewer costs in the state within eight years when our rates finally reflect the true costs of the project.
Alan Pryor, the Yes on I campaign chairman, recently acknowledged on these pages that our deep aquifer water is of high quality and is virtually indistinguishable from river water. We will be able to draw entirely from this high-quality water shortly when our two new wells are operating. Our deep aquifer meets state and federal water quality and discharge requirements.
Pryor acknowledged that his only concern is supply, but the city’s deep aquifer study showed that “recharge is in approximate equilibrium with extractions from the deep aquifer.” Any changes, if they occur at all, will be on a “decades to centuries” time scale, according to a written statement by UC Davis hydrogeologist Graham Fogg.
We have plenty of time to work toward joining a larger, regional, surface water alternative.