Local News

UC Davis joins surface water project

By From page A1 | July 20, 2014

UC Davis is set to exercise its option to contract for water from the Woodland-Davis surface water project, resulting in lower costs for both cities, but especially Davis.

The campus will receive about 6 percent of the project’s water and will pay $20 million toward the project and pipelines — reducing the cost to the city of Davis by $11 million and to the city of Woodland by $1.2 million. Those savings eventually will make their way to water customers.

In addition to spreading out the project costs, a UCD news release said campus participation is likely to give the city of Davis greater flexibility in how it manages its supply and may enhance the ability to explore alternative water conservation measures.

Davis, Woodland and UCD all receive their water now from underground wells. The drought has accelerated worries that the cities and the university need to diversify their water supplies.

“It’s great news,” Davis Mayor Dan Wolk said in an interview. “Not just the money that comes to Davis. … In a larger sense, it really reinforces this partnership between UC Davis, Davis and Woodland. I don’t think (UCD) would be jumping into a project that wasn’t good.”

One of the water project’s great proponents is former Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza.

“It’s something that the university and the city have been coordinating on for years,” Krovoza said. “The beauty and elegance of the UC Davis decision is that now the major users of Yolo County groundwater are involved in the surface water project.”

The university has been involved in the surface water project since 1994 with the original filing of a Sacramento River water rights application. In 2009, it transferred its water rights to the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency along with an option to receive treated water back from the agency. This is the option UCD decided to exercise.

Construction of the water treatment plant is underway in Woodland. Dirt from the excavation for the plant is being trucked south on County Road 102 and west on Covell Boulevard to The Cannery development site.

Construction of local pipelines to deliver water to Davis and UCD is estimated to start in 2015, with the first water deliveries to happen in September 2016. The university will receive 2,000 acre-feet of water per year, or roughly 6 percent of the total available.

The new water treatment plant will deliver 30 million gallons of surface water per day, with 18 million gallons going to Woodland and 12 million to Davis, with UCD getting its water from Davis’ share.

The university will pay $20 million in capital costs, which includes contributions to the overall project and the construction of local pipelines for water distribution. Global engineering firm CH2M Hill will be completing the project. It’s also the contractor that will operate the plant.

In the news release, university officials said the decision did not come lightly.

“After extensive analysis and careful consideration, the campus decided to exercise its option,” said Sid England, assistant vice chancellor for environmental stewardship and sustainability. “The advantages to the campus are clear, including improved quality of water, less reliance on groundwater and an additional supply of water far into the future. … A high-quality, reliable water supply will support campus teaching and research for many generations.”

Woodland Mayor Pro Tem Bill Marble, a longtime champion of the water project and current chairman of the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency, said UCD’s decision set a marker for the water project.

“UC Davis’ commitment to the project represents another important milestone for the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency and this critical regional water supply project,” he said in the news release. “We welcome their continued participation and are confident it will help hold down costs for ratepayers in both communities and contribute to additional future benefits and efficiencies.”

Added Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, a member of the water agency’s board of directors, “This is great news. UC Davis’ leadership during the early planning phase of the surface water project helped make it the reality it is today. Their full participation further strengthens this important regional effort.”

Wolk said the university’s decision was, in a way, foreshadowed in the run-up to last year’s Measure I vote.

“I talked about the potential for UC Davis coming in and the partnership,” he said, adding that the university’s decision is part of recent events that bode well for the water project, including the Davis City Council’s vote to approve a new water rate that will pay for the project.

“It’s just been a good week for water,” Wolk said.

The Davis rate, 13 percent for fixed charges and 87 percent for gallon-by-gallon charges, is hailed by some opponents to the city’s previous consumption-based rate, and its six-month look-back provision.

The city is due to mail out information brochures by July 31 and schedule a protest vote as part of the process proscribed by Proposition 218. The mailer will describe in detail the water rate, and allow property owners who object to mail in their vote of opposition. Property owners who support the rate do not need to do anything.

Water project boosters see it as a historic agreement between Davis and Woodland, providing a safe, secure water future for everyone involved and a chance for high-tech businesses like biotech and robotics to flourish.

— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Dave Ryan

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