Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Greensboro Water Department keeps citizens in the dark

Yesterday I saw a free copy of the News & Record in a restaurant so I though I would have a look. I turned to the info-page and there it was--- Monday’s water report. This daily item of useless information has been appearing in the News & Record for ten years now. I thought you deserve to know how it got its start and why you should disregard it. A decade ago some dull person in the water department thought it would be cool to compare yesterday’s water use to the same day one year ago. It sounded so nifty that the water department began feeding this daily report to the News & Record which also thinks it's valid. NOT. This daily comparison has gone on ten years now without anyone recognizing its folly. I think any moderately intelligent person would understand that no conclusions can or should be drawn from this 2-day comparison. There are just too many variables. It is entirely possible for the results to be skewed in either direction by several million gallons, and especially if the weather was hot and sunny---or cold and cloudy---or raining. Or the hydrants were flushed---or there was a structure fire that was extinguished---or a snow day---or a broken water main---or anything else for that matter. The City and the News & Record might as well be reporting yesterday’s temperature or precipitation or what you ate for dinner compared to one year ago. The real purpose of the daily water report---to obscure the facts! The real purpose of the "daily water report" is for the City to appear as though it is reporting when it really isn’t. Greensboro is suppressing and not reporting because the water consumption report is so bad.
For a decade now the City and apparently the News & Record have preferred that you be kept in the dark regarding the production of the Greensboro water treatment plants. The information is not only sensitive but it's condemning to everything Greensboro is trying to accomplish.
The real numbers are being concealed because if it had them, the general public would draw its own conclusions and recognize it has been scammed. That’s precisely why the Greensboro water department displays this CHART of “Lake Performance” on its web page—because it gives the appearance that the City is "reporting" when it isn't. Nobody cares or understands “lake performance” and that’s why the water department offers it to the public. Its CHART is a decoy.
What people really need to see is an easy-to-understand history of water use as found in my CHART. (Click to view full size) Last month's water use...
If the City and the N&R really wanted to publish something useful they could tabulate water use for the month and release last month’s water use compared to the same month one year ago. That would mean so much more than the silly one day report. Last year's water use...
But wait, how about reporting last year’s water use compared to two years ago? Now citizens would be getting useful information. Here’s what that report would show: Water use in 2007: 33.7 million gal. a day Water use in 2008: 30.9 million gal. a day And if the City and the News & Record really wanted to inform the public the way I do, they would include:
Water use in 1995: 34.6 million gal. a day Water use in 2007: 33.7 million gal. a day Water use in 2008: 30.9 million gal. a day The City and the News & Record won’t show these numbers because they prefer to keep Greensboro citizens in the dark. It’s almost criminal to obscure the reporting as much as they both do. Remember, they do not want the public to have the information because it is so damaging. I’ll close with one final and obvious omission—Greensboro's forecast of future water needs. I cannot find it anywhere. Does the Rhino have it?... the News & Record?
Everyone from the Carolina Journal to the News & Record and NC DENR, EMC, the Duke and UNC water experts and Water Director Allan Williams constantly refer to “Greensboro’s future water needs” as though the future water needs have been established. Where are they?
I always read in the news that Randleman Lake will furnish water for the next 50 years. According to who? How do they know? What means are they using to predict future water needs? Where is the report? Hello.....
Why won’t Greensboro publish its future water needs report on its water web page? And why won’t the News & Record publish Greensboro’s projected water needs? Can anybody put their finger on a hard copy of Greensboro’s water forecast? I doubt it. Given its pathetic past performance with water forecasting (see CHART) I don’t blame the City for hiding its most recent guess. Personally, I don’t believe the projections even exist. They are just tossed about as a justification for the continual and uninterrupted expansion of the water works.
What if........? What if during the push for the Randleman Dam in the mid 90's the City projected that it would need less water in ten years? Would the dam project have ever been approved? The answer is “NO.” But that’s exactly what has happened and the damaging news is being covered up.
Greensboro purchased 53% of the Randleman Dam project and now it must pay for what it has purchased. It remains to be seen if Greensboro will also need to pay for a daily allocation from Randleman Lake even if the water is not needed.
If you think Greensboro water is expensive now, just wait!

FACT: In the mid-90's Greensboro could have easily connected to Burlington's water and even signed a long-range contract for Burlington's extra water. Those options were hidden from the public so Greensboro could maintain its low reservoirs and secure the permits and funding for the Randleman Dam.

FACT: Greensboro Utility Director Ray Shaw suppressed information about the availability of Burlington's water resources because Shaw had a dream to build the Randleman Dam. It was the "only option" according to him. In fact, Shaw and the City actually believed they would oversee the engineering and construction of the dam and the daily operations of the Randleman water plant. Instead, PTRWA decided to do its own engineering and operations.

FACT: After the Randleman Dam was fully approved, Greensboro then connected to Burlington's water. Water Director Allan Williams recently accused Burlington's water as being "expensive" and claimed that Randleman's water will be "much cheaper." Williams is lying again. His claim is designed to keep citizens from questioning the Randleman project.

FACT: Randleman's water will be much more expensive than Burlington's water when you consider that Randleman has development costs whereas Burlington's water works already exists. You would think that some news reporter would have challenged Williams' claim that Randleman water will be cheaper. Not in Greensboro.

Is any of this finally becoming clear to Greensboro's citizens?


  1. could you please tell us where you retrieve your statistics from? i would like to see what sources you cite.

  2. The data in the CHART was obtained from the Greensboro Water Resources Department. --MJB