May 11, 2022

New Water Use Ordinance Added to Davis Municipal Code

The emergency order has the potential to be permanently codified


On February 22, the Davis City Council voted unanimously in favor of new water use restrictions. In order to reduce the waste of drinking water, it is now forbidden to wash buildings or sidewalks with drinking water.

Councilman Dan Carson said the drought situation looks dire. Since this year’s rainy season was exceptionally dry, California citizens should be mindful of water usage in the coming months.

“We’re trying to send a message to the public that they have to be very smart with their water use because honestly things are looking bleak right now considering it’s, again, of an unusually dry rainy season,” Carson said. .

The new ordinance will be enforced primarily by citizen complaints. Citizens will be able to report water misuse to the city — for example, if they observe a sidewalk being washed with fresh water — through a mobile app called My Davis, according to Carson.

“We don’t have roving law enforcement officers, but we certainly have city employees doing their job in the city, their eyes are open to watch for issues and violations,” said Carson. “The main way we hear about concerns is if someone reports them to us.”

Currently, these new restrictions are part of an emergency ordinance, but the council is considering making them a permanent part of the city’s code.

“Having passed this emergency ordinance, our staff will now go through the normal process to see if these measures should be permanently enacted as part of the city’s ordinance that prohibits wasting water,” Carson said.

The city’s conservation coordinator, Dawn Calciano, said enforcing these restrictions will begin with an education process. For the most part, water is wasted through ignorance; easily rectifiable situations, such as a break in a sprinkler system, often go unnoticed.

“It usually starts with a door hanger and then a follow up door hanger,” Calciano said. “We have environmental resource staff who walk through the whole process and look for water waste and also respond to any concerns community members have about water waste. It starts with an educational process, especially with sprinklers, because we encourage people to run them all night, they don’t always know there is a problem or a break in the sprinkler system.

Due to the rains, Davis successfully transitioned to using primarily surface water from the Sacramento River in the water supply. As the summer progresses, the ratio will likely increase to about half surface water and half groundwater, according to Calciano.

“It varies every month,” Calciano said. “During the winter months we were 99.6% Sacramento River water and only about 0.4% groundwater, but during the summer months we were only about 50 % surface water and 50% groundwater. As we had rain in the fall, the amount of surface water has increased and we will likely start to see it fall throughout the summer.

Carson said the city cannot enforce those rules by shutting off the water. The city does not have the authority to shut off water for households, so loss of access to water is not something city residents need to worry about. The city is aware that much of the water wasted is due to ignorance rather than deliberate misuse.

“We’re not allowed under state law to turn people’s water off,” Carson said. “The main reason is that it is a safety and health issue.”

Calciano said residents of Davis have significantly reduced their water usage over the winter months. This was probably because heavy rainfall reduced the need for irrigation.

“We appreciate all the hard work the Davis community has put in as we have seen a big improvement in water usage in November and December,” Calciano said.

Written by: Rachel Shey —

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