Located in Yolo County, in the Central Valley of northern California, Davis is situated 11 miles west of Sacramento, 385 miles north of Los Angeles, and 72 miles northeast of San Francisco.
One major advantage of the Davis region as a place to live and do business is its proximity to major markets. Virtually the entire state of California is within a one-day driving distance. The Sacramento and American Rivers lie to the east along with historic gold country and Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. To the west are the San Francisco Bay area, the great coastal redwood forest, and the beaches and rugged shores of the Pacific Ocean. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region lies to the south. There is unparalleled scenic beauty and many recreational opportunities within a few hours drive from Davis.
Davis sits in the Pacific Flyway, a major migration route for waterfowl and other North American birds. Several wildlife preserves, offering a natural environment, dot the landscape. In 1999 President Clinton recognized the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area as one of the most successful public-private partnerships for wildlife preservation. It provides habitat for thousands of resident and migratory waterfowl on more than 2500 acres of seasonal and semi -permanent wetlands. The facility is open to the public and provides educational opportunities regarding wetlands and associated wildlife species.
The Central Valley is the agricultural heart of the state and provides one of the most highly developed and integrated agricultural systems in the world. Scientists conduct research in Davis because its physical location allows re-creation of nearly limitless soil and environmental conditions. The area surrounding Davis has some of the most productive agricultural land in California, sustaining hundreds of different crops – from rice to tomatoes to almonds. Thus conservation of prime agricultural land through limited urban growth is a priority as part of the City's General Plan. Other directives include resource conservation and the efficient use of energy, open spaces and water resources. These priorities have garnered Davis international acclaim for accomplishments in recycling; water conservation; and innovative, energy-saving design.
Davis also sits in the eastern portion of the Putah Creek Plain, a major feature of the southwestern Sacramento River Valley. The land slopes at generally less than one percent. The official elevation level of the city is 51 feet. Elevations range from 60 feet in western parts of the city to 25 feet in some eastern parts. The city limits cover 9.91 square miles.
Davis flood hazards generally consist of shallow sheet flooding from surface water runoff in large rainstorms. The Public Works Department mitigates this impact by maintaining three main channels and three detention ponds, which provide for drainage and storm water detention. No earthquake faults run through the city. Davis has suffered no quake damage from quakes occurring on the San Andres fault system to the west or the Eastern Sierra fault system to the east. The office of Planning and Research has placed the Davis area in Seismic Activity Intensity Zone II.
The City's water supply, maintained by the Public Works Department, is drawn from aquifers ranging from 300 to 1,800 feet below ground surface. Davis draws water from 21 water wells located throughout the City, one elevated storage tanks with a 200,000-gallon capacity, a surface tank with a 4,000,000 gallon capacity and over 170 miles of water distribution pipes. The quantity of water available has been estimated as adequate to meet the City's projected demand.
Generally, Davis groundwater is very hard and high in dissolved solids. Selenium and nitrates are two primary substances found in Davis tap water. Selenium is a natural element in the soil, which may dissolve into groundwater, and nitrates are chemicals that may occur from agricultural irrigation and cultivation of the soil due to fertilizers or leaching of water from septic systems. Both selenium and nitrate levels at all city wells are below the maximum standards set by federal and/or state agencies. Long term development of water wells over 1,500 feet deep is planned to improve the aesthetic characteristics of Davis water. The City currently has four deep water wells.
The City of Davis and the University of California, Davis are jointly involved in a study to identify the feasibility of future water supply alternatives to improve water quality and reliability. Several of the alternatives being considered involve obtaining surface water from the Sacramento River and treating this water at the City of West Sacramento water treatment plant. This study is funded by a grant from the State of California Department of Water Resources.
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