Investing in a reliable water delivery system

An editorial from the Charleston Daily Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some ancient Roman aqueducts in Europe are still in use, a testament to ancient engineering and craftsmanship. Are the ones in this area as well-built?

With the news pointed out Thursday by the Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. that at its current pace, West Virginia American Water will need nearly 400 years to replace all of its water mains, our great-great-great grandchildren are on pace to find out.

It’s easy to make light of the water company’s schedule. One way or another, the needed infrastructure repairs will happen; it’s only a matter of how much pain will be involved before the Public Service Commission and the company hammer out the details.

You know there are some system issues that need to be addressed,” said Jacqueline Roberts, chief of the PSC’s Consumer Advocate Division. “It also costs money to address them. You have to balance the need for repairs with the ability of customers to pay.”

And therein lies the rub. West Virginia American’s Charleston customers already pay higher water rates than other West Virginians. Requests for more rate increases are understandably met with skepticism, particularly with the utility’s parent company reporting a 16 percent increase in income last year.

The 2014 water crisis and other visible problems like the water main break in Dunbar heighten the public perception problem for the utility.

The constant scrutiny and pressure to keep costs down fosters a culture of caution and a business structure that discourages reinvestment. It’s not surprising that infrastructure has suffered…

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