Water system what if’s

Published 8:00 pm Friday, July 31, 2015

To the editor:

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What if instead of fighting it, we embraced this water contract, but took it to another level, a more advantageous position for Polk County and its interests. In other words, what if Polk County Water System merged with ICWD?


The assets Polk brings to the table are obvious: a reservoir, a watershed designation, the right to draw up to 8MGD from the reservoir, and a county full of potential customers.


What could Polk County gain? These assets could buy Polk at least 1/3 of the seats on the Board that would run the Water District or Authority. This could be an inter-state regional water authority. Maybe the name changes to ICPWA (Inman-Campobello-Polk Water Authority). We provide the aforementioned assets, the dam maintenance and lake maintenance costs are spread over the entire system, with its 12,000 plus existing customers, so that the cost is very manageable. Polk could bargain for a minimum reserve for 3MGD to 4MGD out of the total 8MGD, which should sustain us indefinitely.


What could ICWD gain? A large permanent water source with at least 4MGD designated for South Carolina customers; 142 immediate Polk customers and all future Polk Customers; a bargaining position with the Towns of Columbus, Tryon and Saluda, to acquire their water assets and existing systems to rapidly increase the customer base; and all future customers for those municipalities.


What could the towns gain? They could have the chance to get out from under the weight of their own overwhelming water system costs, including long-term upgrades and line replacements, and gain a less expensive, high quality alternative to Columbus’ well system, Tryon’s primary dependence on the water flowing over the dam at Lake Lanier, and Saluda’s need to purchase from Hendersonville?


Those current town water resources could be retained by the Water Authority for backup and or increased capacity as needed, but they would not have to be the primary sources any more. Also, the Water Authority could still purchase finished water from BRWA, which would probably love to have the business. If the towns were to buy into the idea and become a part of the overall water authority, they would require representation on the board as well, which could still be accomplished.


Even with the added costs of infrastructure upgrades for some of the older town systems’ failing assets, the large customer base would allow costs to spread over the system, which would keep water rates extremely low, much lower than the Tryon rates, and reasonable for everyone.


Downside: Water distribution is determined by this board, which means there would have to be some guidelines to make sure water distribution within Polk County is consistent with a strategic plan or water plan.


But if these concessions were possible, it would work. Since the board would consist of at least 1/3 Polk representation, the likelihood of the Water Authority Board going too far astray from the county’s growth plans is slim.


Sometimes it takes someone or some entity from the outside to help us accomplish what we could not do on our own. Namely, to get the county and the towns to combine their resources for the common good.


We have discussed numerous scenarios which have yet to be considered. It seems prudent for our Board of Commissioners to slow down and give all the players a chance to show their interest.


I guess my real point is this: There are too many potential alternatives out there right now, for our Commissioners to jump on the first and only offer currently on the table!


Warren Watson
Tryon, N.C.