One of the fantastic things about our community is the appreciation for and knowledge of local and regional environmental issues. Staff regularly receive great questions about environmental topics, and there are a few questions that come up a lot, so we’ve provided those questions (with answers) below.

Q. Can I recycle milk cartons in Davis?

A. Cartons are really tricky because there are two kinds of cartons, and depending on which kind, you have they go in different bins!

Cartons that need to be refrigerated before they are opened (i.e. milk or ice cream cartons) are only made of thick paper with a thin layer of plastic. These can be placed in the organics bin for composting (yes, even if they have a plastic spout) as the plastics are screened out of the finished compost.

Shelf-stable cartons that do not need refrigeration before they are opened (i.e. cartons of broth or juice boxes) are made of several layers of plastic and aluminum over a thick paper core. These are not recyclable or compostable here in Davis, and they need to go in the trash.

Cartons can sometimes look similar, so check the labeling on the carton to see when refrigeration is required in order to determine which kind of carton you have.

Q. Do I need a water filter?

A. Davis tap water meets and exceeds all state and federal drinking water standards. The city samples and tests our water on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis in order to ensure that it is safe to drink. Some people (specifically immuno-compromised individuals) may be more vulnerable to constituents in drinking water than the general population, so please consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.

The use of a water filter is a personal decision, but not necessary. Some residents decide to use water filters to help reduce the taste and smell of chlorine added to the drinking water for disinfection or to remove trace minerals.

Q. How hard is my water? Do I need a water softener?

A. The city of Davis supplies water from two sources: groundwater from city deep aquifer wells and surface water from the Sacramento River. Surface water is naturally softer than local groundwater. In 2015, when the city supplied only groundwater, the average level of water hardness (weighted average) was 306 parts per million (ppm) or 17.9 grains per gallon (gpg). In 2020, the city supplied 76% surface water and 24% groundwater, and the weighted average for hardness in 2020 was reduced to 77 ppm or 4.5 gpg.

If you are still using a water softener at your home, consider bypassing it to determine if the current level of water hardness is acceptable for your home, or adjust the grains setting on the water softener accordingly. Reducing or eliminating the use of water softeners can also save water and energy costs, as well as protect water quality. Some water softeners release large quantities of salts into the city’s wastewater system. The salts remain in the treated water, even after being processed at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and contribute to problems with salt loading in local wetlands, rivers and the delta.

Q. Can I flush those “flushable” wipes down the toilet?

A. Flushable wipes are not flushable. Although the packaging may state that wipes are flushable, that is not always accurate. Wipes do not break down like toilet paper, causing havoc on your septic or sewer system. When flushed down the toilet, wipes can cause major backups and clogs within the sewer lines. The toilet is not a trash can, so place wipes where they belong — in a real trash can. Additional information on non-flushable items can be found at in the Think Before You Flush PDF.

Q. I have a skunk on my property, what can I do?

A. Here are some suggestions to keep skunks off your property (and avoid potential human-skunk conflicts):

  • Sprinkle lawns or planters with cayenne pepper to discourage grub hunting.
  • Consider motion-activated sprinklers to deter skunks and other unwanted animals.
  • Skunks are generally calm animals, but will spray when startled or threatened. Turn on outside lights and make noise before entering the yard. This will alert the skunk to your presence and encourage it to avoid conflict and leave.
  • Seal gaps and holes under fences. Skunks can climb, but prefer going under fences to visit your property.

If these actions are not successful, contact John McNerney, the city’s wildlife resource specialist for options, advice and assistance. Visit for additional information.

Q. What does the CCF mean on my water bill?

A. A CCF (hundred cubic feet) is 748 gallons. This is the equivalent of the amount of water it would take to fill 17.8 bathtubs (each bathtub = 42 gallons). You may also see water usage displayed in AquaHawk and other sources as cubic feet (cf) and/or gallons (1 cf = 7.48 gallons).

Q. What are the most common water leaks in a home?

A. The most common water leaks reported to the city are toilet leaks and irrigation leaks. The volume for toilet leaks can vary greatly depending upon the type of leak. Many toilet leaks are silent, especially if they are toilet flapper leaks. An irrigation system that has a leak 0.031 inches in diameter (about the thickness of the tip of a ballpoint pen) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month. Use AquaHawk, the city’s customer water use portal, to assist in finding leaks. Find more information at

Q. When can I put yard materials in the street for pickup?

A. Seasonal yard material pile collection is offered in most areas of Davis for excess yard materials that do not fit in the organics carts. Seasonal collection includes 10 scheduled fall/winter collections that occur every other week (from the third Monday in October to late February) and one spring collection (the week of the first Monday in May).

Q. How can I recycle cardboard in Davis?

A. Cardboard will be picked up by Recology Davis every week on your regular collection day if it is flattened and stacked on the ground next to your recycling cart. All packing materials (even paper) must be removed. Please do not place large pieces of cardboard in the recycling bins as they can get stuck in the hopper on the recycling truck. Cardboard can also be recycled seven days a week at the Recology Davis Recycling Center, 2727 Second St.

Bulky waste landfill voucher

Due to the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city and Recology will offer a Bulky Waste One-Time Voucher for the second year in a row in lieu of the typical Bulky Items Drop-Off Days in April for city of Davis customers. The voucher will allow Davis residents to dispose of one free load of bulky waste at the Yolo County Central Landfill (some restrictions apply). The one-time voucher is valid from April 1 to the end of November and was mailed out to all Davis residents at the end of March— so check your mail. Be sure to hold onto the voucher, and bring it with you when you go to the landfill.

For more information on the voucher, visit or contact Recology Davis directly at or 530-756-4646.

April composting class

The city is offering a free, virtual class on backyard composting. This class will provide an overview of the composting process and the benefits that different composting systems can provide to your garden. The class will also include step-by-step instructions on making your own backyard composting bin, worm bin and food digester. We will also discuss the importance of maintaining an active compost pile and avoiding pests.

The class will be offered twice, and each offering will cover the same material: 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, April 17; and noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 21.

The class is free and open to anyone wishing to learn more about composting. To participate in one of the classes, please email to receive the web link to the class. For more information, contact the Public Works Utilities and Operations Department at or call 530-757-5686.

— Jennifer Gilbert and Dawn Calciano are conservation coordinators for the City of Davis. The Environmental Update column is published monthly. Reach Jennifer at and Dawn at