Wednesday, April 16, 2014

All in the city will get top-quality water

By Alan Pryor

Super sleuth Bob Dunning is at it again. His latest reporting uncovered the nefarious scheme by the city to unfairly give some Davis residents well water for a small part of a summer day.

Bob implies it was his own unending work and dogged determination that uncovered this hidden conspiracy that denies giving every single resident in the city 100 percent surface water for every drop that comes from their faucets during the summer months. Unfortunately, as is the case of much of Bob’s writings, his news is neither new nor factual but a simple rehashing of an old story.

So what is the truth about this dastardly hidden agenda by the city to defraud its residents? It started about two years ago when I wrote a letter to city staff that questioned the fairness of the planned mixing of surface and intermediate aquifer well water during the summer. At that time, I was only concerned about some residents (well, OK, me) unfairly getting a high proportion of intermediate aquifer well water for extended periods during the summer months.

I have long been on record as reporting the very poor quality of the intermediate aquifer well water in Davis and I did not want to have to pay my fair share of the surface water project and receive a disproportionate share of intermediate aquifer well water after the changeover. The letter was intended only for internal use by city staff but was somehow leaked to Davis Greenwald of the Vanguard blog who ran a full story on it in the Vanguard on March 23, 2011 — nearly six months before the Sept. 6, 2011, water vote.

The city engineers actually were already on the problem, though, and have since finalized their citywide surface water distribution system plans and well water mixing strategy and my concerns have been completely alleviated.

Firstly, the final decision was made by the city to completely eliminate the use of all intermediate aquifer water and rely solely on deep well water as backup during the summer months. The water quality of the deep water wells is unquestionably superior to the intermediate aquifer in all respects — lower nitrates, lower selenium, lower hexavalent chromium, lower hardness and lower total salinity.

It is, in fact, very good quality water and I would be perfectly happy to get deep well water year-round if I thought that it could be accomplished in a sustainable manner. I don’t think there is a qualified water quality expert in town who would disagree and I doubt any Davis resident would even notice any taste or other differences between deep well water and river water when it starts to flow through our pipes when the changeover occurs in 2016.

Unfortunately, however, as every reputable hydrogeology expert has told us, the deep aquifer is a finite resource and providing 100 percent of the city’s water needs 100 percent of the time would result in the eventual depletion and/or contamination over time. So we have to go to the river for the surface water or risk leaving Davis high and dry in some decades to come.

Secondly, the city has since announced its new main distribution system for carrying treated surface water throughout the community. It is a well-designed plan with new or enlarged mains carrying the surface water to all parts of the city including West Davis, East Davis, South Davis and the central part of the city.

After the switchover, will some residents get more deep well water than surface water during some times of the days during a few summer months? Of course they will! City staff has been completely forthright about this for more than two years. They have always honestly acknowledged that it is a physical impossibility to have 100 percent perfect mixing short of otherwise putting in massive new mixing tanks strewn throughout the city. There is no way to avoid this.

But the point is that the well water Davis residents will get intermittently during the summer will be very high-quality deep aquifer water and they will not notice any difference in taste, effects on plants or hardness forming on their faucet outlets. And they can drink it without fear of accumulation of unknown toxins, which cannot be said now with the current use of our questionable intermediate aquifer water.

In summary, as long as the city gets rid of the lesser-quality intermediate aquifer water and fairly distributes the surface water to all quarters of the city, every resident in town will get their fair share of surface water and there will be no poor-quality intermediate aquifer well water going to anyone, ever.

However, once again, Bob Dunning raises an issue that has been worked to death years ago and tried to turn it into a lead story that he attributes to his super sleuthing abilities. Bob should stick to his bread-and-butter tirades — off-color jokes about the City Council and Zipcars or using his bully pulpit to berate the Natural Resources Commission for daring to restrict his beloved plastic bags and his god-given right to use his smelly wood-burning fireplace any time he chooses.

I suggest he leave the serious science and engineering reporting to Tom Sakash, who has done a superb and impartial job for The Enterprise.

— Alan Pryor is a Davis resident and treasurer of Yes on Clean Water for Davis, the pro-Measure I campaign committee.

Special to The Enterprise


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