Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: We all pay, but only some get the water

By From page A2 | February 19, 2013

“Clean water for everyone” is the battle cry I keep hearing in the literature I’ve received from the “Yes on Clean Water for Davis” group.

Indeed, we have been told over and over again that Measure I is about “clean water” for all residents of Davis. I guess that’s why the folks bringing the Sacramento River to our doorstep named themselves the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency.

Unfortunately for the Clean Water advocates, though, when you delve into the details of the plan, it appears not everyone in town will be eligible for the same access to all this clear, sparkling, cures-what-ails-you Sacramento River water. In fact, when I asked this “equal access” question of city staff, the answer that came back was startling.

Please note that under the city’s complicated “consumer-based fixed rate” billing system, by the year 2018 the city will be charging you $7.80 on your annual bill for every ccf of water you use between May 1 and Oct. 31. And this billing will take place no matter what time of day or night you might use the water.

By comparison, the operable rate for water used between Nov. 1 and April 30 will be $1.32. The city justifies this incredible price increase (more than five times the current rate of $1.50 per ccf) by claiming the May 1 to Oct. 31 period represents “peak” use in Davis.

Fair enough. It’s no secret that most people tend to use more water in summer than in winter. Still, if you’re paying $7.80 for this “peak use” water, it had better be sweeter than wine and softer than a summer breeze.

Well, here’s what the city has to say about “equal access” to this new source of water.

“During the summer months,” one city water official notes, “the deep wells will be used to cover the peak water use, which is typically from about 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. And if you live close to a deep well, you will mainly be receiving well water during this time. After the peak is over, the well will shut off and you will again be receiving surface water.”

So, what we now know is that during certain hours of this six-month period when the city is charging us “peak” rates five times higher than what we pay now, some of us won’t be getting much, if any, of that precious and coveted Sacramento River water.

And this will be based solely on how close we happen to live to one of the wells that’s churning out the supposedly inferior water that tastes worse that cod liver oil and is killing our pipes and appliances and leading to early death for the family dog.

Sure, they’ll get Sacramento River water at other times, but the whole reason for building this project and charging these high rates in the first place is to take care of our “peak” demand and eliminate the supposed hazards of well water.

To understand the dangers of using well water, let me quote directly from the website of the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency, which says, “The quality of our groundwater is declining. A number of our water wells in Davis and Woodland have been shut down and destroyed due to serious and growing water quality problems and threats to public health.”

Threats to public health? Now that’s something worth worrying about. Then again, if you ask me if I think there’s anything deficient about the water from Davis’ deep wells, my answer is no. It’s as pure as the driven snow and has kept me in good health for more decades than I care to remember.

But, by the very name they chose for themselves and by the doom-and-gloom scenario on their website, the folks at the Clean Water Agency are clearly saying there is indeed something wrong with our well water. And, since Sacramento River water is what we’re paying for here, it seems to me the only proper thing for the city to do is to identify those homeowners who will not be receiving Sacramento River water during “peak” hours and permanently freeze their summer rates at $1.50, which is what they currently pay.

The city should not be allowed to raise the rates for these deprived folks to the level everyone else pays until and unless they receive their fair share of the Mighty Sacramento.

Yes, we’re building a brand-new park with city money, but only kids from the west side of town will be allowed to play there.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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