Wednesday, July 30, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Water project groundbreaking an opportunity to celebrate major milestones and successes

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Jim Yost, right, of West Yost Associates, and Doug Baxter, city of Woodland principal civil engineer, explain the layout for the surface water project during a tour in February 2013. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise file photo

Help make history

What: Groundbreaking for the Woodland Davis joint surface water project

When: 10 a.m. Thursday

Where: 42929 County Road 24, Woodland

By Joe Krovoza, Bill Marble, Don Saylor, Skip Davies, Brett Lee, Dan Wolk and Jim Hilliard

On Thursday, the cities of Davis and Woodland will celebrate a milestone decades in the making and one with benefits for generations to come: the groundbreaking for the regional surface water treatment facility.

Although construction of the facility may sound fairly simple, it may well be remembered as the most important project either city has ever undertaken. Once operational in 2016, the facility will improve water quality and water supply reliability for both cities, even during times of drought. This is essential not only to the health and well-being of our residents, but also to the long-term economic health of our communities.
The project is the result of decades of policy decisions and planning, and more recently the subject of important community deliberation and study. The difficult, but sound, decisions that brought us to this point ensure that we are no longer victim to the circumstances associated with having ground water as our only water source.

Those circumstances include increasing costs for pumping and treating the degrading ground-water supply, the threat and imposition of expensive regulatory fines for violations of strict state and federal water quality and wastewater discharge standards, and the vulnerability from having a single, non-sustainable source for all of our water needs.
The project started in 2009 with the two cities working together to form a joint powers agency responsible for implementing a regional surface water project. The voting membership of the agency’s board consists of two City Council members from each city, along with one nonvoting representative each from the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and UC Davis.

To date, all of the significant decisions made by the board have been unanimous. This speaks to our efforts to collaborate on actions that serve the best interest of both cities. It serves as a model for effective governance.

An early hurdle we faced was securing a set of strong, year-round rights to Sacramento River water, something many predicted could not be done. Despite a series of hurdles, we successfully obtained a right to up to 45,000 acre-feet of water each year, which is enough to serve more than 100,000 families.

For additional water supply security, we later purchased a right in perpetuity to 10,000 acre-feet of summer water from the owners of Conaway Ranch. This will ensure that we have supply during summer months and other dry periods when water diversions under our primary water right are curtailed.

Once we acquired these water rights, we needed a way to divert water from the river. We engaged in a historic urban-ag partnership with Reclamation District 2035, the water provider for Conaway Ranch, on a joint water intake facility that has attracted $34 million in state and federal funding commitments. This partnership resulted in shared, instead of agency-only, costs for common facility features. Construction of the intake should begin in a few months.

Finally, we needed a facility to treat and deliver the water to our customers at the lowest possible cost. By joining forces, we achieved a savings of more than 25 percent from original project cost estimates for the regional water treatment facility and pipelines by carefully refining project plans and hiring a single contracting team to design, build and operate the facility.

Overall, we reduced the total project costs, including our share of the intake facility and local distribution facilities, from $350 million to $228 million.

The decisions necessary to implement the project — such as the adoption of rate increases to pay for its design, construction and operation — were challenging. Both cities utilized highly engaged citizen committees to study the need for the project, provide another perspective, and to advise the respective City Councils.

One way we decreased project costs was by implementing changes — such as reducing the project size — based on the committees’ input and recommendations. The committee process has proved to be extremely effective.

The surface water supply project has ushered in a new era of innovative water management in Yolo County. Woodland is proceeding immediately with aquifer storage and recovery (known as ASR) whereby surplus winter water from the Sacramento River will be stored in a groundwater basin beneath Woodland for later use.

Davis will begin using low-quality wells to water significant portions of its parks and greenbelts. And both cities are enhancing water conservation initiatives to ensure that we maximize our water resources and act as good stewards of our environment.

We can all be proud of these collective efforts to provide for our current needs and ensure water supply reliability far into the future. We invite you to join us at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 10, at the project site, 42929 County Road 24 in Woodland, to celebrate this significant milestone for our communities and the promise it brings for our future.

— Joe Krovoza is mayor of Davis and chairs the Woodland Davis Clean Water Agency board; Bill Marble, a Woodland City Council member, was founding chair of the agency board and is the current vice chair; Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, Woodland Mayor Skip Davies and Davis City Councilman Brett Lee are agency directors; and Davis Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk and Woodland City Councilman Jim Hilliard are agency board alternates.

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