Private water is how we got here
January 31, 2012
The call to privatize the county’s water funds as an answer to the current problems requires a reminder that one of the most problematic water systems was private.
Sheridan Acres Water System was owned by a resident of the area, who was ordered to give it up after hearings were held by the Public Utilities Commission because it wasn’t serving the residents of that area.
The system was placed in receivership in 1997 after Judge Michael Gibbons ruled that the company was not able to serve its customers.
It took seven years before the county decided to buy the water system. When the county took it over, it needed new pipes, meters and storage estimated to cost as much as $2 million to fix.
That’s not the only time the county has stepped in to rescue a private water system that was no longer sustainable in the private sector.
Private owners can’t just do what they like with a water system. They are regulated as a utility, which is a good thing. Water is a health and safety issue, and making payroll or keeping up the system isn’t an option, it’s a requirement.
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When times were good and the county had lots of money rolling into the water funds to make the improvements and keep rates low, it wasn’t really an issue. It wasn’t until the recession that the county started looking for ways to make the water systems do what they were supposed to do, pay for themselves.
The argument for privatization ignores those water systems that work effectively and economically. Customers in Minden, the Ranchos, or even the East Valley, would say there’s no need to privatize their water systems.
Even Gardnerville’s Town Water Co. is a public entity, with every customer having a vote on its board.
With the rates proposed for Thursday, hopefully the issue of consolidating the administration of the water systems can be concluded. While it may not have made sense for the county to have one rate for the different water systems, it certainly makes sense to eliminate the redundancy of providing support to them.