Draft water regionalization plan now ready to view

Published 11:19 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2017

COLUMBUS – Polk County, Inman-Campobello Water District (ICWD) and Broad River Water Authority (BRWA) have joined together to do a regional water study and the draft study is now available for public view.


The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Aug. 21 and heard from county manager Marche Pittman.

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Pittman said it is a draft and he’d like to get it out to the public for their input. The county plans to put the draft plan on an upcoming meeting agenda for residents to comment either at the end of September or beginning of October.


“This document is far from over,” Pittman said.


During the county’s first meeting in August, commissioners briefly discussed the draft plan and said on a few occasions that nothing would be approved without public input on the plan.


Commissioner Ray Gasperson said last week either someone has a water system that stands on its own or you follow a potential of having a regionalization or a merger.


“We are now participating in a regionalized system and we’re seeing what changes we need in the future,” Gasperson said. “Nobody’s talking full regionalization.”


Commissioner Shane Bradley, who has on several occasions suggested the county sell Lake Adger, said, “or we could get out of the water business.”


Pittman said having the contractor Arcadis US Inc. do the draft study with an outside perspective was really good.


Arcadias has completed the water system regionalization study analysis for ICWD, BRWA and Polk County with the purpose of the analysis being to provide the entities with the potential framework for regionalization, as well as evaluating the financial feasibility of the regionalization options.


The most resource/risk sharing and potential benefits option is for the entities to create a regional water authority, according to the study. The next most resource/risk sharing option is to create a regional wholesale water supply and treatment authority. The next is expanded participation and the last is for inter-governmental participation. The last three options include the entities retaining local control of their water systems.


With a regional water authority, the authority would possess all water assets and operations. The wholesale authority would possess the water supply, treatment and transmission assets with the entities maintaining individual autonomy. The expanded participation option would mean increased joint participation through one-to-one transactions and agreements. The intergovernmental participation option would mean cooperation through contractual agreements to share resources.


Polk County, ICWD and BRWA already cooperate to supply the area with public water. BRWA and ICWD ran a main water line through Green Creek to connect their systems, with Polk County owning the water line and having the ability to extend lines off the main line. Polk County owns Lake Adger, which is a potential water reservoir. Polk County currently contracts with ICWD to run the county’s water system to supply water to Polk customers.


The analysis concluded that both a regional and wholesale authority will result in savings to all of the entities.


“The regional water authority, which provides the most amount of consolidation, provides the greatest savings; however, there are forecasted savings for each entity under both options,” states the draft analysis.


Arcadias concluded that several factors influenced their evaluation, including the value of Lake Adger’s raw water and the associated reservoir improvements, the value of ICWD and BRWA water treatment and transmission assets and the operating efficiencies achieved through consolidation.


Lake Adger was recently appraised to be worth $5,150,000.


“Based on our evaluations, the formation of a regional authority/entity is financially feasible and is forecasted to result in potable water costs savings for customers in the region,” Arcadias said. “A legal review of the regionalization process is the recommended next step in the planning schedule. Based on our experience with the regionalization process, it is anticipated that formation of a wholesale water supply and treatment authority would have fewer legal challenges to overcome.”


The full draft analysis can be viewed on the county’s website at www.polknc.org.