(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 9/20/2013)
When the merits of “sustainable” growth are mentioned, the parts most often left out of the hype are more roads to maintain, more schools to build, more police, fire and emergency medical services to provide.
And more water to drink.
More water – two million gallons a day – is what some directors of Gettysburg Municipal Authority would have its customers believe they need to buy from York Water Company.
On the other hand, GMA said in July, when it repealed its 2005 resolution calling for developers to provide water for their projects, that it has plenty of water.
So which is it? Does the authority have sufficient water for its future needs, or does it not. The question bothers at least one member of the GMA Board of Directors.
“That’s why I voted against renewing the permit (application for) the water transfer,” GMA Director Susan Naugle said early this week.
York Water company draws water from the Susquehanna River. The company’s permit from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission allows it to draw significantly more water than it actually uses – but YWC needs money, and selling the surplus water is a good way to get it.
A similar financial need exists in Gettysburg, which is part of the reason GMA seeks to expand its customer base – and revenue stream. Its infrastructure, especially within the confines of Gettysburg Borough, are old and in need of more upgrading than many borough residents can afford.
Naugle said the pipeline to bring the water into the GMA system currently is anticipated to cost about $4 million, with $2.5 million being GMA’s direct responsibility. York Water’s share, of course, will be included in the rate the company charges for the water.
And any contract with YWC likely will include a minimum water usage – better stated as a minimum amount paid for the water. Use it or don’t, but pay for it anyway.
What is certain is a significant portion of the cost of future development will be borne by current water rate payers, many of whom already have water sufficient for their needs, but who will be required to connect to the new water supply, and then pay the monthly tariff.
A few years ago, when gasoline prices began to climb, drivers responded by cutting back on consumption. Gas taxes, charged per gallon rather than per retail dollar, also diminished. The result was state and federal highway departments struggling to maintain roadways – especially a huge inventory of deteriorating bridges – on reduced budgets.
Lawmakers still are struggling to find ways to fund highway maintenance without increasing taxes either on oil companies or consumers. Good luck with that.
Of equal importance is what will happen if – some say when – the river dries up – or catastrophically overflows.
Electrical generator plants on the shores of the Great Lakes, Long Island Sound, and various rivers southward to Tennessee and Alabama have been forced to shut down or reduce power as their cooling water supplies heated or dried up.
Flooding in Colorado is washing petroleum and other chemicals downstream, over thousands of miles of waterways, to New Orleans – passing millions of users who depend on the Platte, Missouri and Mississippi rivers for sustenance. Closer to home, the state Attorney General last week filed criminal charges against a Marcellus drilling company for dumping used fracking fluid on the ground. Some of the chemicals were found in a tributary of the Susquehanna River.
What will happen if York Water Company suddenly does not have water to sell the Gettysburg authority?
These questions need to be answered before we commit to unnecessarily tying our water needs to an out-of-county source.
At the very least, future developers should be required to ensure sufficient water is available before they are allowed to build and sell to unsuspecting buyers.