Rural Growth and Demand

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Forty years ago people in rural areas drilled wells and pumped their own water. It varied in quality, taste and safety.

In the 1960s a few neighbors banded together and created community water associations.

Today there are almost 1,600 such associations in our state, 13 in Lauderdale County alone.

Herman Usher is president of the Long Creek Water Association.

"When we first started people said I've got a well, I don't need it," said Usher. "That made it so hard and now they're begging us to give them water. This mobile home industry wouldn't be what it is today if it hadn't been for rural water associations."

A.J. Wedgeworth, president of the Collinsville Water Association agrees.

"Let's say it was a very small Ma and Pa operation when they first opened up out here," said Wedgeworth. "But the tremendous growth out here, the whole thing has changed."

The growth of rural water associations has been phenominal. Billy Barrett, head of the Toomsuba Water System was there at the beginning.

"Started in 1962 with 30 customers," said Barrett. "As people's wells went out, we got the system in. They kept on getting on the system and now we have 1,330 customers."

But with growth has come substantial debt. Long Creek with about 3,500 members, has steadily upgraded its system with loans from the USDA Rural Development until now its financial report shows long term debt in the amount of about $1.7 million. That requires an annual payment of principle and interest amounting to over $150,000.

Collinsville has also enlarged its ability to supply water, representing an investment of up to $1.8 million. The last expansion at Toomsuba cost one point two million. Rural water associations may be called non-profit but they still must generate surplus in order to pay their notes.