ONLY ON 3: Tired of CFPUA, some customers digging wells
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's no secret that the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has had its issues in the past three years.

Rate increases and the authority's tier structure have many customers up in arms about the authority. It's to the point some folks have decided to take getting water into their own hands.

"Just an astronomical increase in the bill. Astronomical," customer Paul Buren said.

Right now, Buren's water bill is about $100, but last summer he paid bills seven and eight times that to CFPUA because of watering his lawn. The extra water use moved his household into CFPUA's third tier, which increased his rates even more.

"They've shown absolutely no concern with rising rates, and it's only going to get worse," Buren said.

Buren has decided to take action. In the spring, he's having an irrigation well put in.

Buren says he's not the only one in his neighborhood digging a well. Since May, seven people now have their own supply of water.

And Buren's neighbors are not alone in their decision. According to well-digging companies, since CFPUA started in 2008, irrigation wells have been popping up all over New Hanover County.

"More and more people are having wells drilled," said Jim Cornette, president of ARM Waterworks. "Their payoff is generally one summer where they'll drill a well, a good water quality water supply well, and pay it off in one summer, so it's a good investment for these folks."

Cornette says his crews are only drilling wells for customers with large yards who need more water for irrigation.

Meanwhile, Buren says something needs to change within the CFPUA.

"They're going to have to do away with the tiered structure, or there is going to be significant changes with that leadership," he said.

We contacted the CFPUA to see what it had to say. So far a spokeswoman has not returned our call.

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We get a notice from Cape Fear Public Utility today telling us we have an excessive amount of water usage as of late, and that we should check for leaks. I've done that, and no leaks. Now, I wonder if they are using that as an excuse to raise my rates. I'll be checking my water meter and determining wether or not any excess water is used at night into the morning. If I see no change than I'm of the belief I'm being ripped off and my rates are being increased to fund future bonuses for employees. I'm not familiar with the "tiered structure", but sounds like this is putting me in a higher bracket. My rates have gone up $10 a month lately, and this is considered Fall/winter. So any extra water use cannot be justified since my patterns of water-usage have not changed since I've lived here, for almost 5 yrs. I'd suggest everyone check their meters. I don't trust CFPU for one moment and they should be called out for insidious activity if they're found to have their hands caught in a cookie jar.

I'm sorry Marissa, I am the spokesperson for the Authority and don't remember getting a call from you about this. I would have gladly provided you the information you requested and will attempt to fill in some gaps via this response. Ultimately, as some of your other comments indicate, the drilling of wells is the choice of the individual. CFPUA does not regulate wells; that is a function of NH Co and the state. There is some larger scale impact to aquifers that should concern all when ground water for drinking purposes is depleted for irrigation, and because of those concerns CFPUA with other regional providers have been having discussions about long term solutions, even featured front page in a recent story via another media outlet. As for the price you pay, the rate structure is set to cover the true cost of providing water and paying for the associated infrastructure. The expansion of our infrastructure to serve peak periods of consumption for example during heavy irrigation months is extremely costly; our Sweeney Drinking Water facility expansion to serve June, July and August costs you and other rate payers in the range of $85 million dollars. If high water users pay less for the water they use, the difference has to be made up somewhere and that may mean higher rates for about 88% of our customers who never leave the first tier. The Board thus far has not adopted that kind of rate change. And the rate increases are attributable to inherited projects and debt from the City and County. The capital budget (project and maintenance debt) has driven every rate increase you've thus far experienced while CFPUA staff has cut the operating budget (the $ to do the work on an increased # of projects) they’ve cut it by some $5 million each year for a total of just over $15 million since we opened our doors.

Hey, give CFPUA a break! They have to have some way to give their employees that nice little bonus come January...

Rain water harvesting is an even less expensive way to go for irrigation. Check out this website. This company is in Wilmington. They do residential as well as commercial projects.

http://www.cfgreensolutions.com

It's a great idea...when it rains. Just like rain barrels. But If you have drought conditions, it won't help much.

Digging a well might seem like a good idea and may alleviate some of your CFPUA woes BUT just like rain barrels and rain water harvesting, unless there is actually rain to replensih the ground water tables, those with wells will eventually have issues during drought periods as well...not to mention the increase in electricity costs to run the pumps/system, likely discoloration on sidewalks/driveways due to mineral content and, unless the well is dug deep enough, you face salt water/sand intrusion which over time will render the well useless. Good luck.

We put in an irrigation well a few years ago, it's wonderful and pays for itself in no time. However, we still dislike the "tiered" CFPUA system. There are only two of us and we don't use that much water anyway, why do we still have to pay more if we try to use less???? It really should be "pay for what you use"!

Water from a public water supply (such as CFPUA, the City, County etc) shouldn't be used for watering and irrigation anyways. Using public water for that purpose should be illegal. The water is for human consumption, not yards. Cook, cleaning and washing clothes is human consumption, watering your lawn to keep your 10,000.00 sod invesment bright green all year long is not. Not to mention, having your irrigation system running even though it has been raining all day.

When I want to water my grass, I use the well that was drilled on my property for my primary source of all water. I have County water for the house and the well for everything else.

If the county up here doesn't drop their rates and get better water, I'll be switching back next year..

When I purchase the water, how I use it is MY decision, Nimrod.

Paul Buren could not be more correct. His comments are spot on. He is probably the smartest man in Marsh Oaks. I saw him today walking around his yard with dowsing rods and a shovel. He is a modern day Jed Clampett. Once he hits water, and his lawn no longer looks like his fertilizer burned neighbor's, I will be proud to have my dog take a dump on it.

Since the summer there has been 8 wells put in in my small area alone. I was one of them. My water bills during the summer of 2010 400.00 and above. Since May 1 of this year my bills were 100.00. If they keep raising the rates more and more people are going to put in wells.

did it..with a little Google-ing...you can figure out how to put one down on your own..water around here is not very far down...paid for mine in a single summer.

The problem...is that you cannot drop the CFPUA "service"...if you can't drop it..it really isn't a SERVICE at all...its a TAX!

You are exactly right about this being a TAX. Calling it a service implies we have a choice about it and we do not. We are forced to deal with whatever they say.