Davis city officials are looking at West Sacramento as a possible alternative site to treat water pulled from the Sacramento River even as the city forges ahead with neighboring Woodland on the cities' joint Surface Water Project.
The multimillion-dollar Surface Water Project with Woodland is planned to supply the cities with treated water pumped from the Sacramento River by 2016.
Davis City Manager Steve Pinkerton said city representatives have had "very serious conversations at the staff level" with West Sacramento officials about using its treatment plant to treat Davis-supplied river water.
Talk of any deal between West Sacramento and Davis is premature, said West Sacramento City Manager Martin Tuttle, but Tuttle said his city has the plant capacity and is prepared to listen.
"It's a good opportunity to have a partner to offset our costs," Tuttle said. "For us, we would need a formal proposal, but once the city of Davis is serious, we would entertain it."
Davis' City Council plans to formalize those discussions by sending council members to talk with West Sacramento leaders in the coming days.
And Davis leaders have given the city's water advisory committee until the council's Aug. 21 meeting to submit its recommendation on whether the city should move forward with the water project or seize the West Sacramento option.
City Manager Pinkerton said he expects an opinion from the water committee by Aug. 16.
The West Sacramento option is tempting for Davis, which is struggling with its own budgetary woes and poor water quality.
"We're talking about a long-term water supply to a city that wants to attract high-tech, that has a research university and that already is tapping its groundwater," said Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza.
Davis' share of the estimated $292.7 million Surface Water Project is $140 million. Ground has not yet been turned on the project and its residents have been averse to rate increases to help fund the ambitious plan.
Woodland, pushed by state and federal deadlines to improve the quality of that city's water by 2016, has already absorbed several rate increases to fund its $153 million share of the project.
Meanwhile, West Sacramento has an existing plant and excess capacity made available when recession slowed that city's growth.
But the West Sacramento plant is a small, older facility and West Sacramento is in an aggressive growth phase. Developing its once-neglected waterfront is a priority.
That includes the future Bridge District neighborhood more than 180 acres of residential and commercial development on West Sacramento's riverfront.
Moreover, getting treated water from West Sacramento to Davis would mean installing a delivery system neither designed nor approved yet through environmentally sensitive areas ahead of Davis' own clean water deadlines, which begin in 2020.
"West Sacramento is a very, very important option, but it's not as simple as people wish it might be," Krovoza said. "These are huge decisions we're trying to make. The city has to secure a long-term supply of quality water. We're continuing to deteriorate the quality of our groundwater basin on which we're 100 percent reliable."
Meanwhile, Davis City Council's vote Tuesday to move a city ballot measure on the project from November to March 2013, and its talks with West Sacramento are weighing on Woodland officials anxious to meet bidding, funding, construction and other timelines to keep the project on track.
Woodland City Manager Paul Navazio has said his city is not interested in the West Sacramento option, saying "Woodland is 110 percent committed to partnering with Davis on a joint project."
But with the first of Woodland's project deadlines just two months away, Navazio said Woodland needs word soon on Davis' intentions.
"We need for them to have a timely decision on whether they are comfortable and committed to working on the Surface Water Project," Navazio said. "Clearly, it's still an open question, but we don't have the luxury of waiting until we get a firm decision."