Water Authority — All Wet or All Right?

Water may very well be the new crude oil – the strategic resource upon which the economy of nations may someday hinge, and over which wars may someday be waged. In this not-too-distant future landscape, a reliable source of potable water and the facilities to treat and transport it cannot be overestimated. Water, like oil, means growth. It means economic development, and it means new housing. Both of which expand the tax base, as well as the customer base, providing funds for infrastructure so that new sources of water can be accessed, treated and delivered.

And around and around it goes.

In this game of high-stakes water, the Town of Winnsboro very nearly holds all the cards. Although in need of upgrades, they have the treatment plant. Although strained by recent drought conditions, they have the supply. Droughts, after all, don’t last forever, and a line to the Broad River is only a few years away. The only card not in Winnsboro’s hand, apparently, is the card that will pay for these upgrades and expansions.

In July, the Mayor of Winnsboro put those cards on the table: If you’re going to continue to wet your beak in Winnsboro’s pond, you’ve got to ante up. Otherwise, get out your shovel and start digging. Maybe you’ll strike water. Maybe you won’t.

It may be true that, over the last several decades, Winnsboro’s water rates have been too low to cover some of their basic upkeep, and long-term wholesale contracts have them locked into those rates come hell or . . . well . . . low water. But even

if Winnsboro doubled their rates – something that would likely send customers into apoplectic fits – the projected revenue still would not be enough to upgrade an aging system and tap into a new source.

Thus far, two entities have deciphered the writing on the wall and expressed a positive interest in helping Winnsboro form a water authority to help fund the current and future needs of the county – Mid-County Water and the Town of Ridgeway. Mitford Water is married to Chester County for the next three decades, while the Town of Blythewood has yet to weigh in on the matter. Fairfield County, the entity with the most to gain in terms of economic development, has also been silent on the issue, perhaps still smarting somewhat from a July 9 exploratory meeting that was scheduled in direct conflict with their Council meeting. There is still time, although little of it, for the County to get on board with what appears to be a legitimate stab at the ‘Greater Good’ of ensuring a steady stream of water for all, and we hope they recognize the wisdom in doing so. On the other hand, with a huge influx of VC Summer cash on the horizon, the County may very well have a Plan B simmering on the back burner.

Let’s hope it’s a good one.

The Jenkinsville Water Company (JWC), meanwhile, apparently came away from the July 9 meeting with the impression that joining the water authority would mean surrendering their autonomy. This, of course, is totally divorced from reality. Nevertheless, the JWC feels like it has, or will have, the resources to go it alone.

Let’s hope they have plenty of shovels.