News Feature | April 30, 2014

Water Scarcity Planning In Alabama

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

BridgeStreet

Alabama officials are preparing for water scarcity emergencies by making plans to share their resources. 

The shrinking water supply is the center of a water-sharing agreement between Madison County leaders and Huntsville Utilities, WHNT reported. Huntsville Utilities is publicly-owned, according to the company.

The deal was finalized this month. The agreement "will allow the county to have better access to clean drinking water for all 80,000 customers at a better price," WAFF reported

The development is seen as positive news for locals. "Madison County residents outside of Huntsville won't have to worry about running out of water during summer droughts now that the County Commission has agreed to a long-term water purchasing agreement with Huntsville Utilities," the Huntsville Times reported.  

Will other counties follow suit? County Chairman Dale Strong said this deal is "historic," and that it will hopefully encourage other areas to try the same approach, according to WAFF. 

"Rather than continuing to drill wells, not finding sufficient water sources, we are teaming with Huntsville Utilities. This is something that should have been done years ago," Strong said in the WAFF report. 

The deal commits Madison County to buying more water than previous years, but "the price comes at a significantly reduced rate. In addition, the 30-year agreement will ensure the county can meet growing development and increased agricultural use," the Times reported. 

“We can’t get ourselves in a situation where we don’t have enough water. We need to have another source for water long term,” Madison County Commissioner Phil Riddick said in the WHNT report. 

Not everyone supported the deal. "District 6 Commissioner Bob Harrison was opposed to the long term water agreement, saying the county should invest in being self-sufficient in water production. Harrison said he would like to see county have its own water treatment facility capable of meeting growing demand as well as employ water conservation measures and eliminate costly leaks in the system," the Times reported. 

The local water supply is under increasing strain. 

The area relies entirely on ground water sources because it lacks access to the Tennessee River, according to WHNT. Summer months are the toughest in this area, "when the Madison County Water Department sometimes must borrow up to 500,000 gallons per day at costly emergency rates," the report said. 

Image credit: "Bridge Street-3," ralph and jenny © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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