FAIRFIELD — Solano County when wooing prospective businesses can portray itself as a bit of an oasis in a drought-prone state.
“Water is an asset,” Fairfield Economic Development Specialist Charles Ching said. “We have a lot of food and beverage manufacturers in town that need a lot of water. There a lot in the Bay Area that are looking for places that have a reliable water supply.”
Local cities promote water conservation. But they haven’t had to impose mandatory water conservation during the ongoing, three-year drought, in contrast to some communities.
Various cities in the Sacramento area have mandatory, 20 percent water cutbacks in place for its residents and businesses. Folsom Lake, the area’s main water supply, has shriveled.
The water agencies that rely on Folsom Lake have a conservation website. Under the economic development section, it notes that some cities may not issue new water connection permits if the situation worsens.
San Joaquin Valley farms that depend on the Central Valley Project face getting no irrigation water whatsoever. Lake Shasta reservoir is 49 percent full.
Gov. Jerry Brown has called on residents statewide to voluntarily cut water use by 20 percent.
Meanwhile, local cities and farms get water from the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lake Berryessa reservoir, which exists almost solely to serve Solano County. Many local cities, such as Fairfield and Vacaville, also get water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through the state’s NorthBay Aqueduct.
Lake Berryessa is the county’s ace in the hole. It fills with rain runoff in local hills. It sits unconnected to state and federal water projects that depend on snowfall in the Sierra Nevada.
Despite the drought, Lake Berryessa reservoir remains at almost 70 percent full. It is slow to fill, but also slow to empty.
Sandy Person of the Solano Economic Development Corp. said the area’s local water supplies are “a huge asset” in the quest to attract businesses. The area is well-positioned to attract food processors that need high-quality water, she said.
On March 11, the Solano County Board of Supervisors heard a report on the county’s economy. Supervisor Skip Thomson mentioned Solano County’s water supplies.
“I think we can use that to our advantage,” Thomson said.
Chuck Wagner, owner of Caymus Vineyards in Napa Valley, mentioned Solano County’s water supplies during a talk at the Solano Economic Development Corp. annual lunch. The Wagner Family of Wine plans to open a winery and plant vineyards on Cordelia Road in southernmost Suisun Valley, where it can use Lake Berryessa irrigation water.
“You’re very lucky here to have sufficient water,” Wagner said.
Fairfield wants its businesses to conserve water voluntarily. But, city Assistant Public Works Manager for Utilities Felix Riesenberg said, this doesn’t require a hard sell.
“Most businesses will do that,” he said. “You don’t have to encourage businesses to be efficient all that often. It tends to be part of their bottom line.”
Water conservation can come in such areas as landscaping. Riesenberg said local businesses don’t have to worry about their ability to produce their product because of water restrictions.
Anheuser-Busch came to Fairfield in the early 1970s. City officials have said one reason was the quality of Lake Berryessa water.
The brewery has kept water conservation in mind. Improved technology allowed it to cut its water use by 47 percent in recent years without brewing less beer.
Even Solano County isn’t drought-proof. In the early 1990s, a six-year drought sapped Lake Berryessa to 25 percent of its capacity. Foundations from the long-submerged town of Monticello re-emerged, as did a long-submerged bridge along a former highway route.
One more extremely dry year would have put the county in dire straights. But 1992-93 ended up being extremely rainy and the drought broke.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.