Monday, April 15, 2013

Great Water Wars Of Fairfax County Nearly Over

(By Tom Jackman, Washington Post, 12 April 2013)

Probably the next-to-last time you will see this map. It shows whom everyone in the footprint of Fairfax County gets their water from, and how much they pay for it. Color Fairfax City and Vienna blue now, with Falls Church likely to follow.  Two-thirds of the Great Water Wars of Fairfax County are now over. The city council of Fairfax City voted unanimously on Tuesday to start buying its water from Fairfax Water, hand over its system and get out of the water business itself. On Wednesday, the city and Fairfax Water signed their pact.
The town of Vienna has already agreed to start purchasing water from Fairfax, though it will continue to maintain its own system. And both Fairfax City and Vienna are dropping their federal lawsuit against Fairfax County. The county had declared that it would set the prices for water provided to county residents by Fairfax City, Vienna and Falls Church City. Those three jurisdictions responded with a suit, and the Great Water Wars were on.

Falls Church, which fought for many years with Fairfax County over water, is the last holdout, pending a city voter referendum in November. But they have agreed in principle to sell their water utility to Fairfax Water for $40 million if the citizens back it. Falls Church has been charging their Fairfax County residents 50 percent more than Fairfax Water was charging. Water rates for Vienna, Fairfax City and Falls Church customers all should decline noticeably in a couple of years, when everyone is hooked in to the Fairfax Water system, and which has more modern water treatment technology than the others.
Fairfax City has agreed to pay $20 million, plus its system, as a buy-in to Fairfax Water. But it retains its reservoir and treatment system at Goose Creek in Loudoun. The city is hoping it can sell that and at least break even, if not wind up in the black, on the whole deal. The alternative to all this was renovating the city’s $50 million system, which would have added more cost to what was already the most expensive water in Fairfax County. In 2011, city residents were paying $103 per quarter, compared with $57.31 for Fairfax Water customers. And it’s gone up since then, city residents say.

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