By Lois Wolk
The city of Davis’ water policies have been extraordinarily consistent for several generations. Supported by all City Councils and city managers, the policies have been to:
* Protect the drinking water supply;
* Reduce our reliance on groundwater through diversifying the supply and conservation; and
* Recognize our role as a discharger of wastewater into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by improving our environmental efforts related to water.
This water policy reflects who we are — a medium-sized city, 100 percent dependent on groundwater, surrounded by agriculture, on the northern edge of the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta.
Consistent with this policy, past councils have metered all water connections, including highly controversial retrofitting all existing homes and businesses. Councils have raised rates to deal both with sewage treatment and the increased pumping and treatment of the groundwater. Councils have encouraged conservation through rebates for higher water use efficiency. Councils have reduced pollutants into the groundwater from landscaping and other uses into the sewer systems. Councils have spent 20 years in a successful effort to secure surface water rights from the Sacramento River to mix with deteriorating ground water.
These actions, particularly when they were accompanied by rate increases over time, were not easy; some were very controversial.
Here is what we know in 2013.
We know the quality of our water, 100 percent groundwater from wells, is deteriorating. Most people don’t drink it. We have learned that the delta is dying due to the pollutants from all of us, cities and agriculture together. We know our infrastructure — the pipes, wells and water mains — is crumbling. We know that we have to treat all wells now for pollutants, a clear change since 1990.
We know we have dug deeper wells, and the deeper we go, the less certain we can be about quality and quantity over time or how or when deep wells actually recharge. We know that the only alternative to diversifying our groundwater with surface water would be refusing to uphold the federal Clean Water Act and other state and federal laws and worse, continuing to mine the groundwater still further.
We have lived off of the groundwater, sewage treatment plant, pipes, mains and wells of the past generations. It’s time to reinvest in our public water system.
We are not alone. The cities around us — Vacaville, Sacramento, Fairfield, Stockton and many more — already have acted and raised rates and built or expanded plants. Our rates, once adjusted, will be in the average of these communities, some of which are much less able to afford rate increases than we are. And we are fortunate to have a partner in Woodland, a city our size that is 100 percent groundwater-dependent, surrounded by farmland, emptying into the delta.
This City Council has been unique in its efforts to address the water issues, and confront the difficult choices. It has done so in a consensus fashion, open to all. The council and the capable Water Advisory Committee have reviewed the complexity of water policy, and suggested a fair path to us. It is the right path. It is the smart path. And it is the best path.
The public investment is what we must make, all of us, to keep this community a desirable one. No less than schools, parks and safety, clean water and sewage treatment are part of what we elect the City Council to do and expect local government to do. We also expect our city government to be good stewards of our region, of the delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Western Hemisphere.
We owe it to future generations to give them what we know is a necessary legacy — clean and reliable water. Our promise must be that their Davis will not be less than ours has been.
Please vote yes on Measure I.
— Lois Wolk represents Davis in the California Senate and has been a member of the California Assembly, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and the Davis City Council.