Joliet water: Should big business pay more?

City has been more open about its plans for Lake Michigan water than some people think

Council member Cesar Guerrero, Warehouse Workers for Justice and others this week called on the city to charge big warehouses higher water rates to offset what residents have to pay for the Lake Michigan water project.

There will have to be a big push to make this happen. I don’t see it getting a warm reception from the rest of the City Council, which would have to approve such a policy.

Guerrero spoke at a news conference before the pre-council meeting Monday, advocating higher rates for big warehouses. But he said nothing about it at the City Council meetings Monday and Tuesday.

The city expects monthly water rates to triple by 2030 to $88 by 2030, when Lake Michigan water will replace the deep-water wells the city has used for more than a century.

Many of the comments at the news conference were directed against Amazon perhaps because it serves as a symbol of big business. But I don’t know if the city could create such a policy and direct it at warehouses and leave out, for example, The Lion Electric Company, the manufacturer of electric buses and trucks that will open a factory in Joliet.

Time will tell if advocates of the big-warehouse water rates will really push the cause or sit back after having made their statement.

But give them credit for bringing up the issue of rate relief, which city officials have said they plan to address so as to ease future costs for low-income residents in the city.

Water transparency

One complaint made about the city’s handling of the Lake Michigan water project is that too many residents don’t know about it.

But the city has been been pretty wide open about plans to find a new source of water since February 2017, when Mayor Bob O’Dekirk invited the mayor of Aurora to speak to the City Council about the future depletion of the aquifer that supplies water to both cities.

O’Dekirk that year created an Environmental Commission to begin studying the issue. The commission meetings were public. The City Council has had several special meetings on the issue – all public. The city created a website,, which contains voluminous information about the water issue and provides opportunities for community input. City officials went to festivals and other events to distribute information. The city held a town meeting for people to learn more about the project and ask questions.

The Herald-News has covered the issue at length reporting November 2019 that the city expected water bills would triple, a forecast announced at a special public meeting on the water issue.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News