by Paul Helliker
The recent rate increase that was adopted by the MMWD Board of Directors and the rate increases that have occurred over the past five years have been driven in large part by the ongoing need to repair and replace the water supply infrastructure in Marin County. Parts of the system date back more than a century, and much of it was constructed in the 1950s and ’60s, when Marin County’s population was growing quickly. The pipelines, tanks, pumps, treatment facilities and other equipment that was built or installed at that time is now reaching the end of its life. In the meantime, many new requirements have been adopted by regulatory agencies that have increased the cost of providing water supply. To keep clean water flowing reliably to our customers, MMWD faces an ongoing need to invest in replacing and repairing its infrastructure.
MMWD’s long-range capital plan anticipates expenditures of $150 million on infrastructure during the next decade. This funding would be used to replace leaking pipes, construct steel tanks to replace deteriorating redwood water tanks, install new components to protect the system in case of earthquakes, expand the capacity of water lines in areas near open space (to improve firefighting capabilities) and many other projects. These costs will be borne by MMWD over many years, with our plans to issue debt to pay for them. MMWD is planning to issue $30 million in debt financing in 2010 to pay for an increment of this program, which will be repaid over the next 30 years.
Water agencies throughout the country are facing similar infrastructure investment needs. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently projected that the nation would need to invest $335 billion in the coming decades, just to keep tap water flowing. For more on this, see the New York Times article at this link.