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Central Arkansas Water improvement plan could increase customers' bills

In Pulaski County, some water pipes are more than 100 years old— now, Central Arkansas Water leaders are working to improve their system.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Around Pulaski County, some water pipes are more than 100 years old, according to Doug Shackleford with Central Arkansas Water (CAW).

Last Thursday, commissioners heard findings from a study that outlined the improvements that need to happen and how much they could cost.

"We have 2,700 miles of pipe in the ground [and] many of those are coming up at their end of useful life," Shackleford said.

Over the last few months, Shackleford said that consultants from a fire looked into how to keep the water system safe.

"They went over a lot of improvements that need to be done [and] what it's going to do for residential customers," he explained.

CAW called this proposal at a 10-year rate increase— in all, $685 million of improvements would be needed.

If approved by the board, these repairs could happen over the next decade.

"Pipes in the ground, water treatment facilities, vertical assets, which means our water towers, pumps stations," Shackleford said.

One of the renovations planned would happen at Jack Wilson Treatment Plant in Little Rock, and Shackleford said that'll be the brunt of their focus.

The facility is about 70 years old and would need $150 million to continue making the water safe and reliable.

According to CAW, the plant provides 75% of all water provided by CAW to residents in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood, Maumelle, Bryant, Jacksonville, Cabot, Shannon Hills, and other communities.

"Central Arkansas Water has not had this level of investment in the last 40 years," Shackleford said.

But with big changes come big costs— which means that customers could expect to see an incremental increase in their bill if the proposal is approved.

"A gallon of water from Central Arkansas Water costs about half a cent. Ten years from now, at the end of this rate covenant that we're looking at, the cost of water would be one penny per gallon," Shackleford outlined.

He added that he believes that it's simply time for an overhaul of the system.

Addressing this now would create less of a worry about a water crisis in the future.

"We eliminate that possibility for a customer being out of service at their home, not having water," Shackleford said.

The CAW Board of Commissioners is expected to meet on December 15 to decide whether or not this is something Central Arkansas needs right now.

If approved, construction would begin in the summer of 2023. 


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