EDITORIAL: Water Committee Takes Right Course
Kudos to a special committee for coming up with what appears an eminently sensible approach to a proposed new water policy for Moore County.
It's past time for the county to charge fees that actually cover the cost of providing service, encourage conservation and answer infrastructure needs. And, though no one welcomes increases in the prices of anything these days, the proposed utility fee structure seems reasonable. It addresses the system's infrastructure needs and has the added advantage of a fee schedule that rewards, rather than penalizes, those who limit water usage -- a huge step in the right direction.
Moore County sits atop an abundant supply of water. The problem lies in access to that supply. The geology of this area makes it difficult to extract desirable quantities of water and distribute them adequately to serve all parts of the county. Residents in one area may have easy access to water, while others may drill well after well and come up dry.
The droughts of 2002 and 2007 pinched. The earlier version was more acute because it caught everyone by surprise, and the reality did not strike home until public water supplies almost disappeared one unforgettable August day. The 2007 drought hit early in the heavy water usage season, forcing operators into speedy and severe action. It spread statewide and became even a regional crisis.
County officials learned quickly that water usage can be curtailed almost overnight by taking one simple step: halting unnecessary irrigation of lawns and shrubbery. It seems that normal household water use is not the culprit in most cases. Then, by curtailing such things as washing cars at home and rinsing driveways and walkways, even more water was saved.
Moore County people pride themselves on healthy green lawns and perky shrubbery, clean cars and walkways, but we can't continue this quality of life if there is no water.
The Moore County Government Efficiency Committee may have an unwieldy name, but it includes experts in such fields as finance, management, and public utilities. They met several times to pore over statistics, examine needs at the wastewater treatment plant and study the configuration of the water system. They looked at the estimated cost of enlarging and upgrading the sewer plant, something that will be legally mandated within a few years. It hasn't been easy work.
A closer examination of the recommended fee structure shows that the higher rates are not overwhelmingly severe and are roughly comparable to fees charged in other public utility systems. Customers who use less than 2,000 gallons of water a month will probably see little change in their bills. The proposed rates call for higher rates for customers with irrigation systems and others who use larger than normal amounts of water. That's only fair. It's even possible that wise use of water could forestall future crises.
Utilities systems operate as enterprise systems. That means that they must pay for themselves. Except for limited grants and low-interest loans from state and federal sources, the owners of public water and sewer systems must turn to users for construction funds. The rate structure recommended by the committee provides capital reserve funds for those purposes.
We Moore Countians should be grateful for the water we have -- and to the committee for pointing he way for the rest of us to make the most of this fundamentally important natural resource.
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