Sunday, June 23, 2013

The UCD Offcampus Water Pipeline Across Solano County, Part I: The Line (128)


This is the first of two posts on the UC Offcampus Water Pipeline by means of which water is transported from the Putah South Canal to the UCD campus. The line is described here. The second post will report some social aspects of how this structure was created.

During the debate over Davis acquiring surface water from the Sacramento River, it was noted that UC Davis already had surface water--from Putah creek.

Some people were curious about this contrast in access to that water but, of course, attention moved on to other matters (DHT post # 95, January 13, 2013, Davis Vanguard, January 15, 2013).

I. The Puzzle
For whatever reason, I could not let go of the fact that UCD imported Putah Creek surface water while Davis did not.  But I was less interested in the campus-city contrast than in the puzzle of how physically UCD gets that water.

Is there a pipeline from the Monticello Dam to the UCD campus? If there is, it would be obvious and everyone would know about it, I thought. So, there couldn’t be a pipeline.

Moreover, there would have been too many objecting landowners ever to dig a pipeline across Solano County.

The only alternative would be to pump water directly from Putah Creek, I theorized. But the history of conflicts over Putah Creek flows quickly deflated that idea.

I was therefore forced back to the pipeline possibility.

But how in the world was it possible to dig a pipeline from the Monticello Dam to the UCD campus? If there is a pipeline, where is it? And if it exists, why does no one seem to know about it?

There was, of course, an obvious way to solve this puzzle. I inquired among UCD plant management people and found that there is, indeed, a water pipeline carrying Putah water from Lake Berryessa across Solano County to the UCD campus.

I thank Dave Klippert (Manager, Campus Planning and Community Resources, Civil and Industrial Services) and Lewis S. Pollock (Superintendent, Utilities Division) for patiently answering my questions about this structure and providing maps, photos and documents, some of which I reproduce here. Thanks also to John Skarstad (University Archivist) for guiding me through boxes of archived Chancellor’s files in search of “pipeline” materials.

II. The Pipeline
The pipeline begins as a tap into the Putah South Canal just south of Wolfskill Road, runs under Interstate 505 and proceeds in a fairly straight line for almost nine miles to Putah Creek a few hundred yards west of Pedrick Road.

At that point it runs under Putah Creek. Water is then pumped into the main campus reservoir.

I mention pumping because I am told the pipeline operates by “gravity flow” from the Putah South Canal to Putah Creek. The Sacramento Valley is, indeed, an amazing structure.

I document and elaborate this bare bones account in the accompanying images that make up this post.

Image 1 is a current AAA map on which I have drawn the pipeline route with a red line.

Image 2 is a more precise but harder to read Stoddard & Karrer engineering drawing of the route dated February 1967.

Image 3 is south-facing photo of the “headworks” where water begins to flow into the pipeline from the Putah South Canal. The term “District” in that photo is a UCD term for the pipeline.

Image 4 is from an in-house training slideshow by Dave Klippert showing the same “take out point” from the opposite direction--the north facing view.

Image 5 is also a Klippert slide and shows the reservoir where the water arrives on the UCD campus and reports some of the technical aspects.

Image 6 is an eastward looking screenshot from Bing maps that appears to be showing pipeline water gushing into the UCD main reservoir.

As reported in Klippert’s slide here numbered Image 7, the pipeline has maintenance access points still called “manholes.” 

In Image 8, we see that one of these “manhole” covers has the letters “UCD” crudely affixed to its surface. As far as I can tell from viewing publically accessible portions of the pipeline route, these covers are the only surface indicators of the line’s  existence (and you have to look sharp to see them).

So there it is. And quite a marvel it is. In a second post, I will relate some social aspects of how it came to be.