The issue: UC Davis takes a key step, to everyone’s benefit
One of the many question marks during the great debate over the Woodland-Davis surface water project has been the intentions of high-volume water users like UC Davis.
NOW WE have our answer: On July 18, the university exercised its option to be part of the operation.
UCD’s involvement in the project goes back to 1994, when the university joined with the two cities in a water-rights filing for the project. In 2009, UCD transferred its rights to the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency, but now it is all in, to the tune of $20 million.
“The advantages to the campus are clear,” said Sid England, assistant vice chancellor for environmental stewardship and sustainability, “including improved quality of water, less reliance on groundwater and an additional supply of water.”
Collaboration is the wave of the future, and having the university join the partnership adds to the project’s stability and spreads out the risk. The best news for Davis is that its share of the project’s overall costs will be reduced by $11 million. What that means for our individual water rates is yet to be seen, but the city has asked its water rate consultant, Bartle Wells Associates, run all the numbers and report back to the City Council on Sept. 16.
Bartle Wells also will determine what other benefits Davis will see with the lower costs, especially on the financing and cash-flow sides. Lenders can’t help but have more confidence in the project if the university is on board.
The big unknown is what effect UCD’s water use will have on the city’s supply. The campus will get 1.8 million gallons per day, which will come out of Davis’ allocation of 12 million gallons per day, leaving Woodland’s 18 million gallons untouched.
CAN WE get by on 10.8 million gallons a day? Will we have to keep using water from the deep aquifer to make up the difference? Will we have to conserve more? Will we switch park irrigation systems to non-potable water to ease demand on the drinking water wells?
Bartle Wells also will be looking at these issues, but they are big questions that require community involvement to avoid the confusion and false starts that have bedeviled the project so far. If council members want this to move forward smoothly, they’ll have to pay close attention to what voters want.
Despite the questions, this is great news for the community. There are details that must be hammered out, but working together is always a positive development, as is sharing costs. UC Davis has taken a key step here, and it is to the benefit of all of us.