OWASA: Penalizing Conservation

The Carrboro Citizen has another report on Carrboro’s BOA’s decision not to amend the inter-local agreement governing access to Lake Jordan water.

I was bothered by this passage:

Board member Joal Hall Broun said the issue was not the lake water, but freeing up OWASA in the event of emergencies and allowing the utility to find ways to keep the cost of water from rising. Many people in the community can’t afford increases in their water bills like those seen in recent years, she said.

Joal should recall that OWASA bills went up as this community met the conservation challenge. It was not the lack of water that increased fees but the unsustainable cost structure of OWASA and the way capital outlays are financed.

It boggles the mind that five years into our great conservation efforts local leadership still hasn’t pushed OWASA to rework its financial model to reward good behavior.

One thought on “OWASA: Penalizing Conservation”

  1. We disagree on this one Will. If water was cheap, where would the incentive come from to conserve? That’s part of the problem we have now with electricity and with gas. We’ve become so dependent on cheap utilities that we behave as if there is an endless supply of raw materials.

    Unlike OWASA, other utilities pass on the cost of upgrading their infrastructure at the time of need rather than all along as the machinery and equipment is depreciating/aging. Look at beach communities, like Beaufort, or locally, Pittsboro, if you want a good example. OWASA builds in the cost of maintenance with current service costs. So the people who are here now, using the services, are paying for the full cost of the utility which includes the water, the staff, the equipment, and the maintenance. If the towns (and the school system) would calculate maintenance into their operating budgets, we’d probably have fewer buildings, less equipment, and instead of having classrooms with mold, we’d have nice healthy environments for our children.

    If you want a challenge, try to get the projected growth numbers from OWASA that are driving the need for this Jordan Lake allocation. You’ll learn that they “worked with town staff” to determine the demand at full build out 10-15 years ago, but I’ve never been able to get the details of what “full build out” means. When the towns decided to increase density by building up, did that change the projection numbers? Is that why we need to Jordan Lake back up allocation? The rock quarry was supposed to be sufficient to need our needs into 2050. On this issue, I miss Bill Strom. He would have opposed it.

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