In this world, water is our most precious resource. Without it, everything is nothing.
The job of the government is not to run business, nor is it to kill business. Instead, government should create an environment in which citizens and industry can co-exist safely and beneficially.
In Chico, we recently had the opportunity to do just that.
A major part of our local industry has long been based around limestone quarries. Those quarries need water for industrial purposes – including dust control and washing rock. These industrial needs are generally satisfied by groundwater wells – the same water we rely on for our drinking water supply. The demand continues to increase as the groundwater supply diminishes.
A company recently began the process of opening a new quarry near Chico. This new quarry is located on property outside our city limits, not coterminous with property inside our city limits, and because our population is less than 5,000, annexation was not an option at this time.
We do, though, all share the same groundwater, and we saw an opportunity for innovation.
We struck an agreement that is designed to capture and improve the assets of the City while protecting our citizens and minimizing any impact to our taxpayers.
The agreement works like this: at our city sewer plant, we produce treated wastewater. Currently, that wastewater is released back into the state’s waterways after treatment with no benefit to our residents.
Under this new agreement, the City will be able to provide a quarry with the reclaimed wastewater at a competitive rate while the quarry pays for the infrastructure that will improve our City’s wastewater system.
We are receiving these improvements at no cost to the taxpayers while also creating a new source of revenue that will offset expenses in our wastewater system.
Because the quarry will be using the reclaimed water for their industrial needs, there should be no need for them to drill a new well into the groundwater supply that we rely on for drinking. Water for dust control and washing rock will instead come from our reclaimed wastewater.
Additionally, there will be some non-industrial needs at the quarry (such as office bathrooms) that will require water utility service. Rather than drilling a new groundwater well to meet those needs, the quarry will purchase that water from the City at the same utility rate that is charged to other businesses.
Of course, any water sales made by the City will be made from our current water capacity and will not impact any supply that is dedicated to our residents.
Growth is never easy, and we must be diligent in ensuring that growth in our county is positive and sustainable.
By selling reclaimed wastewater, the City of Chico is allowing the local economy to grow while minimizing the impact on our groundwater supply and our residents.
J.D. Clark is mayor of Chico. He wrote this in response to a letter to the editior that ran in the Messenger Wednesday, June 11.