Economic Notes: Fairfield has ample water supplies now, into future

May 14 2018

Daily Republic By Felix Riesenberg

As we enter the California dry season, it is important to remember the importance of water in a community. Water is a necessity of life. We all use water every day, and a sound public water system is a crucial element in a community’s basic infrastructure.

A public water system must meet several criteria to be considered a success. These include enough water (quantity), safe and pure water (quality), consistently available water (reliability) and economical water (cost). Fairfield is fortunate to rate highly in each of these areas.

Water quantity

Through long-range planning and foresight, Fairfield invested in two highly significant and very expensive surface water development projects: the Federal Solano Project (Lake Berryessa) and the State Water Project (the Delta). Both of these projects were controversial at the times they were being considered, but are now recognized as the lifeblood of Solano County’s economy and quality of life. For Fairfield, water supplies have been secured that should support the city’s growth until General Plan buildout, while being robust enough to handle multiple years of droughts. For example, during the recent drought, Fairfield’s supply was never an issue, as Lake Berryessa never fell below the city’s own critical 50-percent capacity trigger. In fact, the mandatory conservation requirements imposed during the drought were state mandates imposed without regard for a local agency’s actual water supply conditions.

Water quality

Fairfield has two state-of-the-art water treatment plants run by talented, well-trained and highly dedicated staff. In addition to continuously monitoring water quality throughout the water treatment process, city staff conduct hundreds of water quality tests each month to ensure quality and meet state and federal regulatory reporting purposes. Staff are always on the lookout for ways to improve and have recently received recognition for not just meeting, but surpassing water quality standards, and for workplace safety. The consistently high quality water produced in Fairfield allows the city to be highly attractive to food and beverage manufacturers such as Anheuser-Busch, Jelly Belly, Frank Lin Distillery, Just Desserts and Calbee, to name just a few.

Service reliability

The city has done an exceptional job of building redundant facilities and maintaining existing infrastructure, which results in very few service interruptions or emergency repairs. Two water treatment plants allow one facility to be taken off-line while maintenance is performed on the other. The East-West Transmission Pipeline Project is a multiple-year project, nearing completion, which will provide system redundancy through large pipelines that can move water around the system from both treatment plants. Recent water tank and pump station condition assessments have been conducted to identify and prioritize needed future improvements. Distribution system crews are well-versed in potential impacts to customers during maintenance work and routinely coordinate activities with affected residents and businesses.

Rate stability

Current and past city councils have recognized the value of the water system to the community and have approved regular, modest rate increases to allow the water utility to operate effectively and perform the necessary renewal and replacement projects even with ever-increasing regulatory requirements and rising costs. Rate increases are never popular, but by steadily increasing water rates over time, residents and businesses are spared “rate shock” and the negative financial impact that can be particularly harmful to lower-income residents, and businesses that need to be profitable in order to continue to exist.

In conclusion, the real take-away here is that the city of Fairfield has extensive and well-maintained facilities, ample water supplies now and into the future, and talented and dedicated employees operating a complex system, with water rates that are around the median level for Northern California. The local water supply is one of the key factors that make living and doing business in Fairfield so attractive to so many people.

Felix Riesenberg is the assistant Public Works director of utilities for the city of Fairfield. Reach him at 428-7481.