Water, water everywhere …

Published 9:53 am Saturday, November 3, 2007

By Staff
It’s a shame that millions of gallons of water — enough to supply Raleigh for a day — are being pumped out of the Castle Hayne Aquifer and into the Pamlico River each day without at least some of that water being diverted for public consumption during a severe drought.
Every day, PCS Phosphate’s mining operations near Aurora pumps an average of 68 million gallons of water from the aquifer into the river. The transfer of water is done to depressurize the water source beneath its phosphate mine. Eagle Water Co., which is based in Raleigh, has a permit that allows it access to up to 58 million gallons of the water that PCS Phosphate pumps out of the aquifer each day. PCS Phosphate has a permit that allows it withdraw up to 78 million gallons of water from the aquifer each day.
Six years ago, Eagle Water Co. contracted with PCS Phosphate to sell that water elsewhere.
The problem is Eagle Water Co. has yet to find a buyer for that water. At first glance, it’s difficult to believe that in six years not one buyer for the water has been found, especially this year as the state suffers from a drought.
Water supply isn’t the problem. It appears distribution of that water supply is the problem.
This week, Eric Lappala, president of Eagle Water Co., said the company requires a local demand of at least 20 million gallons of water a day to make distribution of the water economical.
Although there are some enterprises that should be provided solely by the private sector, this may be one of those enterprises that requires a public-private partnership to make it work. If it takes a public-private partnership to distribute millions of gallons of water to people, businesses, industries and other entities that need water, so be it.
No doubt some people will say that allowing some government agency to have a role in managing distribution of that water would be inviting more government control over people’s lives, result in efficient management and create another layer of bureaucracy. They may or may not be right.
Perhaps another private enterprise such as Eagle Water Co. could find a way to distribute that water to customers and make a profit while doing it. That would be a wonderful way to solve the problem.
Right now, at least, it looks like Eagle Water Co. is the only player in the game. And it’s struggling to find a way to win that game.
But if a public-private partnership is able to provide millions of gallons of water to communities that need water to meet current demands, much less allow them to grow, then that option must be explored.
Allowing millions and millions of gallons of water that could be made available to consumers to go unused seems wasteful, if not almost sinful.
Lappala said Eagle Water Co. continues to search for potential customers up and down the east coast of the state and as far west as Raleigh. And those folks in Raleigh no doubt would love to have millions of gallons of water from eastern North Carolina come their way.
Hopefully, Eagle Water Co. will find a way — the sooner, the better — to economically distribute those millions of gallons of water to customers. If the company’s efforts to do just that dry up soon, then it’s time to strongly consider a private-public partnership to distribute that water. In a time of drought, letting millions and millions of gallons of available water go unused is a waste of resources and unthinkable.
Simply put: Waste not, want not.