Latest Thoughts on Regional Water

Toledo’s willingness to form a regional water organization has waned. Over the past several weeks, they have hosted various public meetings to discuss the idea with little city council support.

As a result, the other members of the proposed Toledo Area Water Authority (TAWA) have had some discussion about forming a regional organization without Toledo. However, the incentive and strategy to do this is still being discussed.

Nevertheless, the full TAWA group is meeting again Friday, April 27. Even though the agenda is yet to be posted, a continuing interest remains to meet to discuss ideas and options. Judging by recent newspaper articles, Toledo may have a proposal of their own to offer.

For three of the members, the clock is ticking on their expiring contracts in 2024. They may have other options, and if so, those talks continue too!  Thus it’s a busy-not-busy time right now in the region discussing long-term water options.
Jerry Greiner

President

April 10, 2018

Advertisements

Regional Water Issues

The regional water discussions are getting more involved.  The Toledo Area Water Authority (TAWA) and the Wood County Economic Development Commission’s Phase II water study are both bringing regional utility providers to meet, discuss options and review the benefits of each.

For Example…

TAWA

After almost 12 months of meetings, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has evolved that meets most participant’s agreement.  Obviously, there are some items that still need to attention, but the 9 political entities involved are invited to sign it for public release on Wednesday, January 31st at 10:00 am. If this is done, all governments will have until March 15th to decide whether they will join, which would start the study and petition the court to form a regional government to own and operate the water treatment plant.

WCEDC Phase I & II Studies

Wood County, on the whole has looked at long-term regional water options too, especially for the population dense northern end of the county.  These two studies have identified options in Phase I and further defined the options and routes along with preliminary cost estimates in Phase II.  The studies help to further identify realistic options with costs for comparison.

A Public Meeting to Share

I’m meeting with the District’s board to set-up a public information meeting during February to share the info for these two options.

We hope to summarize the most recent water study and TAWA MOU, which can be found on our website

Stay alert to more information about the meeting!

Jerry Greiner

President

An Update on Regional Water Talks

Intro

The Northwestern Water & Sewer District (The District) continues to participate in the Toledo Chamber of Commerce funded regional water discussions between the City of Toledo and the eight agencies that purchase water from the City by contract.  These agencies include Lucas County, Southern Monroe County Water, the City of Sylvania, The District, the City of Perrysburg, Fulton County, the City of Maumee and the Village of Whitehouse.

The biggest challenge in these discussions is to agree on priorities such as water quality, reasonable rates, ownership and board control in trying to form a regional agreement.  While trying to sort out these differences, it appears the concerns in the past have been more political than operational.

The difference in the water discussions now is facilitator Eric Rothstein, who comes to the area with experience in regional water concepts through his work in Detroit, Milwaukee, and Orlando.  His efforts keeping the discussions focused are crucial for the group.

While regional water talks continue, the District is waiting on the completion of a new study on water issues, which may offer water alternatives.  We should be hearing more about both the study and regional water talks within the next few months.  We encourage you to stay informed as the results will impact your rates, depending on where you live.

Wood County Economic Development Study

This organization will release a Phase II study that looks harder at using the City of Bowling Green’s Maumee River source.  Their existing plant has excess capacity now but would have to expand to serve larger areas.  An expanded expensive reservoir is needed too, with or without an expanded plant.

This study follows the Phase I study, which provided several alternatives for drinking water, primarily in the northern end of the county.

TAWA (Toledo Area Water  Authority)

This proposed ORC 6119 group may consist of the seller of water, which is the City of Toledo and (up to) 8 current buyers of their water now.  The Toledo Chamber of Commerce hired a facilitator to lead the parties through a study looking at regionalizing their water plant and distribution systems.

That group has been meeting for several months now, and a document called an “MOU”- a “memorandum of understanding” will be out soon that looks harder at this, with more detail.

Our Area

In Wood County, we are blessed with several sources of public drinking water.  For example, if you live in a rural area, you may receive your water from your own drinking well.  Public sources, however, include:

-Lake Erie water via Oregon and Toledo water treatment plants.
-Maumee River water via Bowling Green
-City of Fostoria water
-Multiple small streams or creeks provide the raw water for a small municipality treatment plant such as North Baltimore or Pemberville for example.

Since many of these distribution systems have been in place for 50-60-70 years, reconnecting to an alternate source isn’t easy nor affordable.  Public infrastructure such as pump stations and water towers are not easily reused.  Thus, the options must be reviewed and studied to ensure the best overall option is also the most economical overall.

In our largest area of service, approximately 8,000 Wood County accounts get water from Toledo through our distribution system.  Approximately 8,000 additional accounts inside the City of Perrysburg receive Toledo water too!

Toledo provides water service through our East Broadway and Superior Street pump stations for these 8,000 accounts in Lake Township, Troy Township, Perrysburg Township, the western ½ of Northwood, Rossford & Walbridge are served.  They have been served in some of these areas in this manner,  since 1967.

Depending on their geographical locations, some may be able to be served by other water treatment plants.  The point of these two studies is to determine which option(s) make the most sense, the best long-term source.

Jerry Greiner

President

 

 

Regional Water Talks Continue

The Northwestern Water & Sewer District (The District) continues to participate in the Toledo Chamber of Commerce funded regional water discussions between The City of Toledo and the eight agencies that purchase water from the City by contract. These agencies include: Lucas County, Southern Monroe County Water, the City of Sylvania, The District, the City of Perrysburg, Fulton County, the City of Maumee and the Village of Whitehouse.

The biggest challenge of these discussions is to agree on priorities such as water quality, reasonable rates, ownership and board control. While trying to sort out these differences, it appears the concerns are more political than operational.

The difference in the water discussions now is facilitator Eric Rothstein, who comes to the area with experience in regional water concepts through his work in Detroit, Milwaukee and Orlando. His efforts keeping the discussions focused are crucial for the group.

While regional water talks continue, The District is waiting on the completion of a new study on water issues, which may offer water alternatives. We should be hearing more on both the study and regional water talks within the next few months.  We encourage you to stay informed as the results will impact your rates.

-Jerry Greiner, President, The District

More Water!

 

We opened our ninth WaterShed vending machine in Northwood earlier this month.  After approximately 2 weeks it’s doing well, dispensing water, collecting quarters and having zero (0) shut-offs or breakdowns!  We must give a huge thank you to Bennett Enterprises for allowing us to locate there with no rental cost!

The Idea

Our original idea was to add these vending units (open 24/7) on the edges of our water service areas.   Many rural residents are on private water systems and some had poor water quality, mainly hardness or sulfur issues.   Our goal was to provide quality drinking water at a reasonable $.25/gallon cost.

It’s worked well!

As you can see from the map, there are 9 WaterShed’s installed throughout The District’s county service area.  We have tried to locate them in busy areas on busy roads, mostly state route highways.

They do produce a good stream of revenue for our organization (some are better than others!) that now totals over $1 million dollars in quarters.  We do have expenses such as:

-building cost

-site work

-utilities

-labor

-testing

What’s Next?

Our 10th unit is under construction at the existing library building in Walbridge.  It will be a “walk-up” unit on the south west wall.  This is the first “walk-up” version and we hope it’s convenient for the users in the area to use.

After that, we are in discussions internally to decide where, when, and need for other sites to locate any more of these.

watershed walbridge

The Water Quality

The 9-step treatment process is unbeatable using both reverse osmosis and ultra-violet processes that remove all minerals from the water source.  When the process is finished and ready for dispensing, it’s completely “pure water” and tasted perfect!

What is CORD and what does it do for The District?

Coalition of Ohio Regional Districts

There are approximately 100-120 water and/or sewer organizations in Ohio providing public utilities under Ohio Revised Code Section 6119.  This section of the revised code outlines how these organizations will be formed and operated.

CORD is a statewide organization of approximately 20 members of 6119 entities.  They vary in size from small to very large, which would be the largest of the all-Northeast Sewer District which serves most of Cuyahoga County and Cleveland.

Our District has been a charter member of CORD since it was formed in 2005 with 11 board members. District President, Jerry Greiner holds a board seat and is an active member of the organization and with the other representatives from around Ohio.

The board meets quarterly in Blacklick to conduct business and meets with their state lobbyist from Columbus.

Legislative items are the primary issue for discussion and attention.  The majority of CORD’s budget is spent with the lobbyist with this in mind.

“It’s been a good opportunity for our district to be involved actively at the state level with other organizations of a similar view and focus on water and sewer issues,” says Jerry Greiner of Northwestern Water and Sewer District.

Affordable Water?

I recently read an article on water affordability called “Affordable Water in the U.S.A

Burgeoning Crisis.”  It was released in January 2017 by writers from Michigan State University.

It’s general statement of rising costs to provide water and wastewater service to all users is very accurate. Many ignored capital improvements are being done after decades of neglect with less state and federal grant money which are being funded by rate increases instead.

For too many years, rates were left stagnant with few improvements, repairs and replacement work getting done. Besides, no one likes rate increases.

But even general operating expenses were increasing such as other utilities, chemicals, labor, equipment which may not have been matched to simply break-even.

Will all water and sewer rates continue at this same rate? It’s hard to say. Most utility providers do annual budgets to keep an eye on any such moves of income or expense and adjust accordingly. However, most have some plan for capital improvements even if its “repair and replacement” work that needs annual attention by the local suppliers.

The article draws conclusion based on US-wide rates that have been averaged without many local impact reviews. A simple forecast based on stagnant incomes leads to the conclusion that water and sewer services may be unaffordable. It ignores minimum usage and minimal bills with ongoing efforts to recycle, reuse, and reduce their usage (which may reduce their monthly bills!)

How do we reduce the risk?

I believe, there’s not one simple answer to that. Obviously, increased grants help fund capital needs. But normal everyday operation and maintenance costs need users to help fund the basic costs of treatment and delivery. Preferably, larger customers help and more customers help as well.

But regional efforts surely help reduce costs and increase efficiency for all users. We have fewer administrators and staff with less equipment which requires us to be mindful of our resources!