Originally created 05/19/00

More water woes



"Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink." An exaggeration, but certainly not one that many Augustans, fed up with dry water pipes, empty water tanks, broken promises and erratic water restrictions, would argue with.

What's particularly frustrating about the annual summer water shortage is that, with the Savannah River as a neighbor, it's puzzling we have a water shortage at all. The problem, of course, is not water supply, but the antiquated, outdated, Third World delivery system that's in a state of perennial disrepair.

The latest breakdown happened Tuesday night and, as usual, it hit hardest in south Augusta after four water tanks bottomed out, depriving hundreds of residences and businesses of water.

Officials blamed it on people ignoring the water curbs. Monday was a no-watering day, said Utilities director Max Hicks, and then with an unseasonably warm Tuesday, people watered like crazy.

Augustans don't have much sympathy for the blame-shifting. It's the city's responsibility, not just theirs, to keep the water flowing. That's why they pay taxes.

Contributing mightily to the problem were past wrongheaded decisions by local government leaders to allow heavy commercial and residential development in parts of Richmond County where the water delivery system couldn't handle the extra load.

There were also reasons peculiar to this week why the south Augusta tanks dried up. Many residents, watering heavily in advance of the water restrictions due to take effect May 23, didn't get word that a major waterline break forced the restrictions to be imposed last Friday.

Then those people who did know about the break had to be angry to see how many of their big business neighbors, and others, seemingly ignored the curbs.

Fair enough. The beefs are legitimate. The bottom line is this: Restrictions are necessary and should be obeyed because not having water poses a public health and safety hazard.

Moreover, the city should enforce the curbs - stringently, fairly and uniformly. No exceptions. (Uneven enforcement is another reason many residents don't take the restrictions seriously.)

City officials must also stop making promises they can't keep. The more they're wrong, the more it undermines public confidence in government. It's encouraging that repairs and upgrades due to be completed this month will send an additional five million gallons of water into the system each day, but until they actually experience the improvement themselves, Augustans will not change their minds that the water woes will be with them all summer long.