PWC Response to Town Hall Questions






Frequently Asked Questions

Rates

1. Are your rates regulated? Are PWC rate increases controlled?
a. Unlike other states, the Public Service Commission does not regulate water and sewer utilities. However, PWC's rates are governed by agreements in place with your community that were established over 20 years ago. PWC is limited to rates not higher than the highest rates charged by any municipality within a 75 mile radius of your system. As a general rule, outside city rates are used as a more accurate assessment of market price given that these rates are paid by customers not contributing to a municipal general tax fund. These general funds are often used to subsidize municipal water and sewer operations.

2. How does PWC determine the increase of water and sewer rates?
a. Each year we evaluate the current water and sewer rates of municipalities within the 75 mile radius of Reynolds Plantation. PWC has elected to stay well below comparable rates within this perimeter over the past several years in support of the Lake Oconee community. We have also consciously chosen not to increase residential water rates since 2012. In fact, overage tier rates have only changed twice since 2007.
b. For comparison, here are the usage tiers, with the price per 1,000 gallons, for PWC and several other utilities within the 75 mile perimeter:

Water

Tier
PWC
Greensboro
Social Circle
Walton Co.
Commerce
3,001-5,000
$7.50
$9.65
$13.29
$6.98
$10.00
5,001-12,000
$8.50
$9.65
$13.29
$6.98/$8.72
$10.00
12,001-50,000
$9.50
$9.65
$13.29
$8.72/$13.91
$10.00
50,001+
$10.00
$9.65
$13.29
$13.91
$10.00

Sewer
Tier
PWC
Greensboro
Social Circle
Hampton
Commerce
3,001-12,000
$9.50
$9.65
$11.99
$7.92/$9.50
$10.00
12,001-20,000
$10.50
$9.65
$11.99
$9.50/$12.28
$10.00
20,001-50,000
$11.00
$9.65
$11.99
$12.28
$10.00
50,001+
$11.50
$9.65
$11.99
$12.28
$10.00
c. The rate impact can be seen by calculating the water and sewer fees using the 2014 and 2015 rates. The usage values represent the average usage for each billing tier:
Water
Sewer
Total
Gallons
2014
2015
Change
2014
2015
Change
2014
2015
Change
3,900
$38.95
$41.25
5.9%
$39.95
$48.05
20.3%
$78.90
$89.30
13.2%
7,400
$58.20
$69.90
20.1%
$59.20
$81.30
37.3%
$117.40
$151.20
28.8%
21,500
$146.00
$199.25
36.5%
$147.00
$225.50
53.4%
$293.00
$424.75
45.0%
83,600
$597.50
$806.00
34.9%
$598.50
$925.40
54.6%
$1,196.00
$1,731.40
44.8%

d. As shown above, we have implemented a tiered pricing structure, as required by the 2008 State Water Plan (approved January 8, 2008), to discourage wasteful water use habits and to reduce overall per capita water consumption. In order to maintain ground water withdrawal permits, water utilities are required to "implement a conservation oriented rate structure for different water use sectors (residential, commercial, and industrial)". The state water plan may be referenced here.


3. Are Reynolds Plantation rates different than other PWC water systems in the area because we are a gated community?
a. No. The rates for the Reynolds water and sewer systems are the same as those in the other 36 water systems that PWC owns in the Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair areas. These systems are located in Greene, Morgan, Putnam, Baldwin and Hancock counties. The vast majority of these are non-gated developments ranging in size from 9 homes up to nearly 900 homes. (Please note that not all systems have both water and sewer service available.)


4. Water and wastewater rates are increased regularly. How does PWC spend these fees?
a. We use revenues which we receive for the following purposes:

i. Operating Expenses, the most significant of which are: electricity and other utility expenses; employee compensation and benefits; well and water expenses (purification and filtration supplies, equipment, repairs and environmental testing fees); and vehicle and construction equipment expenses, including gas, oil, etc. ;
ii. Taxes (property ad valorem taxes, federal and state income taxes);
iii. Annual Capital Expenses, for upgrade or replacement of infrastructure and equipment;
iv. Capital Replacement Reserve Fund: For explanation, the current replacement cost of the Company's water and wastewater systems exceeds $100 million, with useful lives ranging from 5-40 years; thus, we maintain significant liquid assets in order to be able to replace this equipment and to be able to continue to serve our customers for generations to come; and
v. Dividends to Shareholders (which are generally comparable to dividends paid by publicly traded utility providers such as Southern Company (owner of Georgia Power), Duke Power, AT&T, Verizon, and various publicly traded water wastewater providers.

Company Ownership


1. Who is Piedmont Water Company?
a. PWC was formed in 1992 for the purpose of owning and operating water and wastewater systems. As the result of a number of acquisitions and new construction, the company has grown to be the largest owner of private water utility systems in Georgia, with facilities dispersed across the north and east portions of the State. Our largest concentration of water and wastewater systems is found in Greene, Putnam, Morgan, Baldwin and Hancock Counties.


2. Who owns Piedmont Water Company?
a. PWC is an investor-owned utility, like Georgia Power Company. Unlike Georgia Power and other publicly-traded utilities, PWC is owned by a small group of investors, all of whom have owned their interests since the formation of the company. While the company has a number of shareholders, the majority of the shares are controlled by members of the Shaifer family. The Shaifers are the initial founders of the company, and they maintain full management, operational, and voting control of PWC and all of its affiliates.


3. Does Piedmont Water Company own Metro Water Filter?
a. No.

Water Supply and Quality


1. Where does my water come from?
a. Currently, your water is provided by a series of deep drilled wells located throughout the water system. At each well site, we treat the water with chlorine as required by state and federal law. Our wells are located within Crystalline rock aquifer systems, and it is typical to experience hardness and elevated levels of iron and/or manganese from these aquifers. For this reason, most wells in this system also require filtration.
b. PWC also has a permit to withdraw surface water from Lake Oconee, in the future, for drinking purposes. This new facility will provide a water product more satisfactory to most of our customers, but it will require considerable expense to build and operate. Current construction cost estimates approach $10 million. We plan to construct this facility when we determine the real estate market has stabilized at a growth level that will allow us to partially finance the facility with tap fees from new growth, not just increases from our current customer base.


2. How much water is produced and used?
a. Water usage and production is seasonal:
i. Winter residential demand ranges from 9 million to 12 million gallons per month. While overall usage is down during these months, 2% of the residents consume in excess of 12,000 gallons per month. This equates to 20% of overall demand.
ii. During the summer months, residential demand jumps to over 20 million gallons per month. For July 2015, total residential demand was 25.9 million gallons. During this period, 21% of the customer base used in excess of 12,000 gallons during the month, accounting for 62% of the overall residential demand.

3. Where does my water go after I use it?
a. Once the water leaves your house as wastewater, it is delivered through a series of pump stations to one of several advanced tertiary level treatment facilities. There it is treated and disinfected for bacteria before being returned to roadside irrigation, golf courses and spray fields, as approved by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.


4. Why do I have problems with water quality? How can you increase my bill without optimum water quality?
a. First and foremost, please notify us if you are having trouble with your water! We recognize that we are not perfect and we always want the opportunity to better serve our customers. It is our pleasure to meet with you in person to analyze and discuss your concerns in an effort to provide high quality water. We take our water quality complaints very seriously and we track them closely. Our quality complaints have dropped every year for the last 9 years, but they have not gone to zero. We ask that you please notify us so we can try to provide help.
b. Seasonal usage also greatly affects water quality. Heavy usage can stir up sediment in the lines, creating discoloration problems. Additionally, emergency repair or maintenance on lines will often result in water discoloration.


5. How do I report to you if my water quality is unsatisfactory?
a. The best way to report a water quality problem is to contact the PWC Customer Service Department at 1-800-248-7689, or by email at Customer Service.
b. For discoloration or odor, we always recommend flushing your service line by running an outdoor spigot for 15-20 minutes. If this does not resolve the problem, call or so that a technician can be dispatched to investigate the issue and flush water mains, if necessary. If you have to run your water longer than this to resolve the problem, please call or email us for a flush credit.


6. I have not been at my vacation home for several weeks. Upon returning, I had brown water. What do I do?
a. a. This is not uncommon. The minerals in water allowed to sit in your home's lines will oxidize causing discoloration and odor. You should flush your lines as indicated in the above section. This should remedy this issue. If not, please call.


Usage and Conservation

1. Why do I have to pay sewer charges for water I use to irrigate my lawn?
a. Charging for sanitary sewer services based on the water consumption (as measured by the meter) is the prevailing practice in the water and sewer utility industry. Meters installed for home use are assumed to be primarily for personal consumption and hygiene. Any decision to divert water from those uses is purely at the discretion of the occupant. Furthermore, we can't accurately know how much water is being used inside the home versus outside the home. PWC does offer the option to purchase a separate irrigation meter. Please refer to the answer to the next question for more details.

2. Can I have a water meter installed just for irrigation so I don't pay sewer charges on outdoor watering? What does that cost?
a. Yes, irrigation meters are available for use in irrigating your lawn. The tap fee for a ¾" meter is $2,800, the same price we charge for all ¾" water meter connections in the Lake Oconee area. (For pricing of larger meters, please contact our Customer Service Department.) Please note:
i. The decision to purchase an irrigation meter is solely up to the individual property owner. However, we will be happy to work with you on a payment plan for the tap fee.
ii. It is the customer's responsibility to have their irrigation system connected to the new meter once it is installed.
iii. The irrigation meter will have a monthly minimum charge, even if there is no usage on the meter. Overage charges apply for usage over 3,000 gallons. These overage charges are identical to the standard water charges.
iv. PWC has developed a spreadsheet to help our customers determine if an irrigation meter is cost-effective based on their usage. The file is available for download here. The file contains instructions for use, but feel free to contact us if there are any questions.
v. Keep in mind that the weather is unpredictable, and there may be some summers that are cooler and wetter than this year. Irrigation meters are billed on a monthly basis, year-round.

3. Why is my bill so high? How do I conserve?
a. If you have an unusually high bill, we first recommend that you check the meter reading. If your reading is equal to, or higher than what is shown on the bill, then the meter reading is correct. If we have made a mistake in reading the meter, it will be adjusted accordingly, with our apologies for the error.
b. If the meter reading is valid, the next step is to compare your current usage to previous periods. If the volume is an aberration from your normal usage pattern, and you have not had any unusual water usage event (i.e. irrigating more, pressure washing, etc…), you may have a leak your home's plumbing system. Please visit our Leak Information Page for information on how to use your water meter to check for a leak.
c. Should you be unable to determine a reason for the high usage, we do offer the option to conduct a flow-test on the meter. There is a charge of $50 for this test if the meter is found to be working normally. If the meter is over-registering usage, we will replace it and adjust your bill accordingly.
d. For outdoor watering, consult a nursery, website, or landscape specialist to determine appropriate water needs for your landscape. Adjust runtimes on irrigation systems to meet these requirements and to ensure you are not over-watering your plants.
e. For water conservation tips, there are several excellent websites available. Here are just a few: Water-Use It Wisely, DrinkTap.org, and Eartheasy.com.


Have a question that's not answered here? Please send it to us.