Water Authority should rethink proposed leak increase fee

We are fortunate in Coweta County to have so many private citizens step up to serve on countless governmental boards — whether as volunteers or in appointed positions.

They take time from their businesses and jobs to serve their fellow citizens — from city council and county commission to libraries, airports and development boards. So it is rare when we come out and disagree with a proposed plan, knowing the volunteer body in question is doing what it believes is in the best interest of all.

Such is the case with the Coweta County Water and Sewerage Authority, which is proposing a significant hike in its leak policy. Currently, when major leaks occur, the authority calculates the leaked usage and only charges the customer the wholesale rate for that water.

As of now, that rate is $2.86 per 1,000 gallons. The proposal would jump that rate to $5.19 per 1,000 gallons.

That’s not a small increase — it’s a near doubling of the current rate. And we don’t agree.

Authority members themselves in a recent news article talked about lightning strikes causing major leaks. Other obvious examples include residents leaving town on vacation and returning to find water all over their yard from a leak caused by who knows what.

A near doubling of the leak rate when it is no fault of the customer just isn’t right. The leak adjustments currently account for about 1.1 percent of total annual water revenue — a proverbial drop in the bucket for the authority. But it’s a major geyser for customers who would get hit with the new rate.

Authority Chairman Neal Shepard, in discussing the rate hike, said, “I think we all know that … 98 percent of our customers are not going to work the system.” We say, therefore, those 98 percent shouldn’t face such a massive increase. We think it’s pretty easy to tell when a “leak” somehow fills someone’s new swimming pool or waters a two-acre garden.

The authority has undertaken massive improvements to the county’s water system with major upgrades and expansions, as well as the installation of new radio meters. More importantly, two other major changes need to be mentioned.

First, the authority has reduced its “unaccounted for,” or lost water, from a staggering 48 percent a few years ago to 11 percent now. Second, Standard & Poor’s recently upgraded the authority’s credit rating, saying, “In our opinion, the authority’s financial profile is solid.”

The staff and appointed board members of the authority should be commended for those efforts. And we do so.

But here’s the “but”: A near doubling of the leak policy isn’t fair to the overwhelming majority who follow the rules and are suddenly hit with a major water bill through no fault of their own. We encourage the authority to reconsider and keep the current rates.



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