Agriculture + Environment

Cities get tentative OK for river water

By February 16, 2011

The state on Wednesday granted Davis and Woodland conditional permission to suck cleaner, better-tasting water from the Sacramento River.

The State Water Quality Control Board tentatively approved the two cities’ bid to tap the river for most of their water. The agency will accept written comments challenging the decision until noon on Tuesday, Feb, 22. The board will consider the comments at its March 1 meeting.

The cities currently draw all of their water from underground aquifers. That highly-mineralized water fails to meet future state regulations, which will crack down on the amount of salt, boron and selenium in wastewater. Cities who don’t pass muster face stiff fines. When a city’s water starts out with high mineral content, that in turn increases the minerals in its wastewater.

“I am a strong advocate of balancing water demands with protecting the Sacramento River and Delta,” said state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, in a letter to the state board. “In this case, I am happy to support this responsible application that meets both the needs of the community and that provides ecosystem benefits. In improving conditions for both water quality and fisheries in the Sacramento River and the Delta, this project is also consistent with statewide water management goals.”

Davis City Council member Stephen Souza echoed Wolk: “Gaining access to surface water from the Sacramento River is yet another step in the responsible stewardship of our natural resources. The surface water project will eliminate a large unscreened intake facility, reducing the impact on fisheries and habitat. It will improve the quality of our source water, in turn improving the quality of our discharge into the Yolo Bypass and Bay Delta.”

The water right approved Wednesday will provide the cities with the bulk of their water — 45,000 acre-feet each year. On average, two single family households in California use an acre-foot of water per year for landscape irrigation and indoor water use such as washing, showers and drinking, according to the state water board.

It’s a junior water right, however. The state will shut it off during drier years. The cities secured a backup in late December when they agreed to pay $79.1 million from 2016 to 2039 to buy a senior water right from Conaway Ranch, a 17,300-acre parcel between the two cites. Conaway water will give the cities up to 10,000 acre-feet a year during the dry summer months.

Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakopoulos bought a controlling interest in Conaway Preservation Group, the ranch owners, in late December.

The junior water right approved Wednesday is another piece of what is estimated to be a $325 million project, including $63 million in pipes and a $156 million water treatment facility.

Covering Davis’ share — $35.1 million — will double residents’ water rates, from $40 now to $90 in nine years, according to agency data.

The Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency wants to start delivering water to residents in 2016.

Written comments to the State Water Control Board should be limited to the general acceptability of the decision or possible technical corrections, according to the board’s website. Parties may not introduce evidence at the state water board meeting.

For more information, visit the board’s website on this water right application at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/hearings/daviswoodland/index.shtml

— Reach Jonathan Edwards at [email protected] or (530) 747-8052. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com


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