July WaterWorks News: Rate hikes spur opposition, water main causes cave-in, stimulus funds arriving slowly

July 2010 Vol. 65 No. 7
A scene in Gainesville after a water main burst flooded a street and caused a cave-in.

SAWS rate-hike plan spurring opposition
Under a proposed new rate increase by San Antonio Water System (SAWS), businesses that use a lot of water to irrigate their properties could see their bills increase from 45 to 65 percent. The rate increase is slated for investment in much needed infrastructure.

Richard Perez, chairman and CEO of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, says business owners are asking SAWS to re-evaluate the sharp increase.

Busted water main floods street, causes road cave-in
On June 5, neighboring residents and businesses near the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, FL, experienced flooding in the streets and a drop in water pressure due to a busted Gainesville Regional Utilities pipe. A sizeable section of road also caved in. The dimensions could not be determined until the water was pumped out, but it was deep enough that when one GRU employee accidentally fell in, the water was up to his head. A layer of sand covered the street where the water had receded due to pumping.

The cause of the break to the water main in the intersection was not determined, nor was it clear until pumps could be brought in which of two pipes broke – a 21- or 16-inch water line.

Stimulus funds slow in coming
Infrastructure funding may not reach the city of Jackson, MS, to help with the city’s crumbling water infrastructure until next year or 2010 according to city officials who requested $10 million out of the $25 million set aside but never appropriated in the 2007 federal water bill.

It wasn’t until a hard freeze in January knocked out water service for area residents and business for a week that the city decided to ask for funding that had been authorized three years ago. Second District Rep. Bennie Thompson said he expects the money to make it into an omnibus federal spending bill, but that may not pass until late this year.

Thompson said he knew the city had problems with its water and sewer infrastructure, which is why he requested the money. In his opinion, the city has no clear plans for upgrading its system and seems slow in making any decisions.

The money will require a local match and will pass through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before it reaches the city. However, the money would not nearly solve the city's problems with its aging water and sewer systems. The city estimates the systems need $214 million in upgrades.

EPA awards grants for water project
EPA has awarded $242,000 to Junction City, KS, for improvements to the current drinking water system.