WATER ECONOMICS 101
Our downstream neighbors in the Cape Fear River Basin are not going to like reading this story. NC DENR won’t like it. The US EPA won’t like it. And if you are a Greensboro water customer you shouldn't like it either. Pay close attention because what follows is a short course in municipal water economics. It could open your eyes. It may help you decipher a decade of dishonest water-shortage propaganda from the City of Greensboro.
When I began my job at City Hall I heard Water Department supervisors say repeatedly, “The Water Director never wants to see any water spilling over the top of the Dam.” Please read this one more time..... "The Water Director never wants to see any water spilling over the top of the Dam.” OK--did that get your attention? Greensboro media---did you get that?
QUESTION: Why should there never be any water spilling over the dam?
ANSWER: Any water slipping over the dam and escaping downstream represented water that could have been sold.
The Water Director wanted to sell all the water he could----to generate more revenue for his department and to justify the continual expansion of the water works. If you do not find this disturbing you might as well quit right here. If you are a news reporter, don't you want your readers/viewers to know that city officials wanted Greensboro's citizens to use all of Greensboro's reservoirs?
QUESTION: How do you sell more water than what customers are currently using (purchasing)?
ANSWER: You create new markets and new methods---the same way you sell more of anything.
Water use (sales) can be increased by discounting price, by offering incentives, by increasing pressure, and especially by promoting lawn-watering. And that’s exactly how Greensboro “managed” (sold) the resource into a protracted scarcity. In the 90's when it said it was running out Greensboro sold its water 47% cheaper than what other NC cities charged for the resource.
In the 90's when it said it was running out Greensboro sold its water 47% cheaper than what other NC cities charged for the resource.
The goal was never conservation ---but always the full utilization of the reservoirs! Can you hear me now? Is there an investigative reporter anywhere in Greensboro?...in North Carolina?
Downstream cities in the Cape Fear River Basin like Fayetteville and Wilmington would love to have water spilling over the top of Greensboro’s dam. Can you guess why? Their citizens make their morning coffee with Greensboro’s wastewater. YUK!—sorry folks but that’s the truth.
Any water spilling over the top of the Lake Townsend Dam instead of passing through Greensboro’s sewer plants makes a better morning brew in all the cities downstream.
Because Greensboro is at the very top of the Cape Fear River Basin (the back lip of the drainboard) it gets to use (sell)(waste) all of the resource it wants. Then it collects the wastewater, processes it in Greensboro’s sewer plants (for another profit), and returns the treated wastewater to the stream.The next municipality downstream cleans up Greensboro’s wastewater, sells the resource again and the entire process is repeated.
Each downstream municipality in the chain can beat the living daylights out of this precious resource we call water—and it often does.This is what is wrong with municipal water resource "management" all across the United States. Municipal water departments enjoy a monopoly, they control rates and they have a built-in incentive to sell all the resource they can. And sell they do. (ATTENTION MEDIA--this is NEWS.)
The Water Department is a sales organization disguised as a service organization. Whenever water-selling engineers are in charge of Water Conservation (as in Greensboro) it’s the fox guarding the hen house.
Whenever water-selling engineers are in charge of Water Conservation you have the fox guarding the hen house.
All of Greensboro departments operate from the General Fund except for one----the Water Resources Department. It is an enterprise fund. Water Resources is the only city department that manufactures and sells a product. It funds itself. Water Resource Departments often have the best hardware, the best equipment, and the most sophisticated technology because they raise their own funds.
Water Departments are managed by engineers who design and build things for a living. They operate on the assumption that the need for water will always increase. Their water works is like a “Giant Erector Set” perfect for designing and building any projects they want and they can justify---sometimes by hook or crook.
Now watch closely. In 2007 Greensboro citizens used less water than they did 12 years ago in 1995. This is why I have taken up the cause again. And this is NEWS that you never heard thanks to Greensboro's local media who are avoiding this entire story! Water use has gone down very slightly over the last 12 years. Water use is far below what the Water Department projected it would be. That's NEWS, too!
So, did the Greensboro Water Resources Department downsize the way a furniture factory or a mill would downsize when its sales fall way below what was projected? No! It kept right on building and expanding. If this was a private sector manufacturer it would not have grown. But because water it is a monopoly and its managers have the ability to raise water rates, the Greensboro Water Resources Department continued to expand its operation while demand declined! And because citizens fear Greensboro is running out of water they support and fund every new water project despite the fact that there has been no additional need for water since 1995! (This is NEWS, too.)
Now I am not saying that the Water Resources Department fails to provide a wonderful product and service—water & sewer—it does! We Americans are blessed to have clean abundant affordable drinking water delivered to our homes and businesses thanks to water engineers and modern water departments like Greensboro’s! But as a sales organization, don’t expect it to believe in conservation even when it is begging for conservation. And as an engineering effort, don’t ever expect it to stop designing and building projects---even unnecessary projects like the Randleman connection when no additional water is needed since 1995.
I have spoken with dozens of WC Coordinators across the US who say their Directors (engineers) don’t give a hoot about WC! How will they ever embrace conservation when their motivation is sales, profit and project design & development?
FACT: In 1998 I observed Greensboro Water Director Allan Williams repeatedly plea on television for citizens to CONSERVE….while he anxiously visited his Accounts Department daily hoping to see water use increase.
Williams did not want citizens to curb their water use. He was pretending. Director Williams was in charge of several incentives that actually caused citizens to use more water while he was begging them to use less.
Conservation was working----demand was declining--- and his department was losing revenue big-time. He needed the funds to run his department---funds that come from selling water----not conserving it. Don't believe anything Water Director Allan Williams says---and especially after this story finally breaks. The last thing Williams and the rest of the Dam Scammers want you to see is the WATER USE CHART. You will find it when you scroll down. ATTENTION MEDIA: Don't you think Greensboro citizens deserve to have a look at the CHART? The picture tells the story.
FACT: The Greensboro Water Department deliberately oversold the resource and oversold its distribution system for lawn watering (peak demand) to justify a 1996 multi-million dollar plant upgrade.
The only purpose this plant upgrade served was to meet peak demand caused by lawn watering! And peak demand was elevated because Greensboro sold lawn-water below cost for many years! That’s how you justify a water treatment plant expansion while pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.
You always present your current system as inadequate (broken) by demonstrating it "cannot keep up." Greensboro deliberately sold more lawn water than it could possibly deliver to justify a plant upgrade! One hot summer day it pumped 54 million gallons and the water plants shook and shuddered. That provided an excuse for engineers to say they needed more---because their distribution system was inadequate! On a normal day Greensboro does 30 million gallons. That's how you get what you want---by "breaking" what you have---by selling lawn water below cost. Imagine how many cups of SWEET TEA you could sell at Center City Park if you sold them at 5-cents each! And if nobody could get SWEET TEA from anyone else but you, would you sell it at 5-cents a cup? No!---not unless you were a fool---OR---you had a secret agenda. What do you think was Greensboro's secret agenda?
Rule #1: It is absolutely essential to use all of the resource and never allow any water to spill over the dam and escape downstream.
It’s no different than any City Department that deliberately spends its entire budget so it can request an increase in next year’s budget. You use all of your reservoir and you use all of your distribution system so you can justify more of everything and keep your "Erector Set" cranking. This is how Greensboro operated to justify the approval and funding for the Randleman Dam. It was fraud---and the fraud has been covered up. And now you know.
One last point and I’m done. When a Water Department has maximized its reservoir sales and maximized its distribution system output there is one unpredictable nightmarish event that can really bring an entire city down---and put a Water Director on Prozac---drought. Think about it. You have allocated (maximized)(sold) the entire canteen ...and then along comes a drought. That’s like having just finished running a 4-minute mile----giving it all you got---and then at the finish line a hungry tiger begins chasing you.
Drought really causes a Water Director to panic. He/she has already sold all his/her water resources with nothing in reserve (i.e. No water flowing over the dam) and now a drought hijacks what you have already allocated. This is mis-management disguised as drought management. Governor Easley, are you reading this blog? The drought gets all the blame---not the Director of Water ---or the City Manager ---or the City Council. Those at fault always blame the drought! It is an easy target. The public falls for it every time. So does the media.
In spite of not sleeping at night there is a hidden benefit of drought for the Water Director (chief engineer). It's a card he can play. He will use the drought to support and defend everything he and his city have been saying about the need for more water and a bigger waterworks---and projects like the Randleman Reservoir. NC is in a statewide drought so Randleman Reservoir looks like an oasis ripe for harvest. But if Randleman Reservoir had customers it would empty during a drought.
The Randleman Dam scam continues....and no local media outlet has breathed a single word about this travesty.
1. Please alert others because information like this is not available in textbooks or from our local media outlets. Tell all interested parties to simply Google DAM SCAM.
2. Please write a Letter to the Editor and include instructions to Google Dam Scam
Thank you for reading! You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org