Water Serious Business

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Pricing and collections are a sensitive subject with rural water associations. But in Lauderdale County, associations say they have a high collection rate, 90 percent or better.

"The only time we miss collecting water bills is when the person who is renting and they
move off and leave a water bill," said Billy Barrett of the Toomsuba Water Association. "If a person stays there they have to have water and they will come in and pay their water bill."

Ronnie Dallas, office manager for the Collinsville Water Association, says his group has a
30-day cutoff.

"But it's always number one priority to collect," said Dallas. "It takes a good bit of time but we try to stay on top of it and keep it down within an acceptable range."

As for pricing, Herman Usher of Long Creek Water Association explains its policy.

"We have made a habit of adjusting our rates maybe once a year or every two years at least, according to the money that we foresee from our budget," said Usher.

Rates range seem to range from $10.50 for the first 3,000 gallons of water to $16. Additional water carries an additional fee. But in a cost-cutting move, Toomsuba has pioneered a new system, radio- read water meters intended to save money.

"These meters have a transmitter that sends a signal to a laptop computer that we will carry in our water truck and we can ride down that street and we can read their meters from the seat of the truck," said Barrett.

Growth has caused many of associations to carry a heavy debt load. Loans obtained from the government must be repaid.

"These associations were formed as a non-profit organization and a lot of people get the wrong idea about a non-profit organization," said Usher. "You've got to make money to operate."

But our conversations with the State Health Department has led us to the conclusion financial considerations are not a factor to them. It is always whether or not the association's water is clean, pure and safe.