City government

Ask the expert: Where else could the city of Davis access surface water?

By From page A1 | February 08, 2013

* Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of “Ask the expert” columns in advance of the Measure I election regarding various technical aspects of the city’s water utility and the proposed Woodland-Davis surface water project.

The expert: Jay Lund, UC Davis professor of civil and environmental engineering. Lund has research and teaching interests in the application of systems analysis, and economic and management methods to infrastructure and public works problems.

The question: Aside from Sacramento River water and the city’s ground well water system, do you believe there are any other viable options for the city of Davis to access a supplemental potable water source that could permanently supply residents with water? If yes, in general, what is the supply and how feasible would it be for Davis to access? If not, why not?”

The answer: A nearly ideal source of water for Davis would be Putah Creek, employing the UC Davis right-of-way for accessing its small allocation of water from Monticello Dam.

This option was passed over by Davis in the 1950s and does not appear to have been seriously explored since. Even today, enough farmers in Solano County probably would be willing to forego Putah Creek water for a price less than what Davis will pay for a new project. However, today this would be institutionally difficult, even if it is economically attractive.

A second economically promising source would have been to join with West Sacramento in its surface water supply, some decades ago. This was not done, but was re-explored recently. After West Sacramento has built its plant, so much of the economic advantage has disappeared.

A third option would be to try to safeguard Davis’ groundwater supplies by reducing agricultural water use outside of Davis — which contributes most contaminants to county groundwater.

The complexities and uncertainties of Davis’ groundwater supplies make this difficult, risky, probably unworkable and not in character with Yolo County’s agrarian ideals.

The fourth option is to join with the city of Woodland in a joint water supply. This is much more economical than Davis going it alone and is a good neighborly thing to do. Regret over not having made the best decision in the past should not prevent Davis from making a good decision today.

Enterprise staff

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