Connecticut has made a policy and financial commitment to the University of Connecticut in Storrs. As a result, UConn is experiencing rapid growth, which is good for students and for businesses looking to hire talented young people.
This growth, however, cannot be sustained due to a shortage of water for the campus and residents of Mansfield. This is an obstacle to economic development in Mansfield and the Four Corners and could hinder plans for UConn's Tech Park and other Next Generation initiatives. Of the several proposals to bring more water to UConn, only one will do so at no cost to taxpayers.
Connecticut Water Co. has served the state for over a century. We propose to bring 2 million gallons of water a day to the campus and Mansfield to solve their water shortages at no cost to taxpayers.
Any company seeking to deliver more water to UConn and Mansfield will have to build the infrastructure. Connecticut Water has more than enough water and has offered to fund its 2 million-gallon-a-day proposal, estimated at $21 million. In these difficult economic times, the state would not have to commit the resources to fund this project. Because the university's growth is vital to the area's economic development, a solution that adds no cost to the state, the university or its students is a win for every taxpayer.
There are several other reasons the Connecticut Water proposal makes sense for UConn and Mansfield.
Connecticut Water's project will be far less disruptive than one proposed by the Metropolitan District Commission because it requires water to be moved only five miles from Tolland to Mansfield as opposed to the 20-mile MDC plan. Connecticut Water's project would cost less than the MDC's $51 million project and be completed faster and at no cost to taxpayers, the university or the town.
Connecticut Water's plan has been found to have less environmental impact and follows a more direct path to Mansfield. The proposed MDC pipeline would bring water from the Farmington River watershed. Residents of that area are concerned that the MDC plan would divert precious water resources away from the Farmington River valley when it could be used to prevent low flow in the river during times of drought. Connecticut Water's proposal will have minimal impact on the state's water resources. We have more than enough supply at the Shenipsit Lake Reservoir to meet the area's needs and well beyond and still fully comply with the recently adopted stream flow regulations, rules from which the MDC is exempt.
Connecticut Water's plan will provide a reliable water supply at a lower cost to customers. Connecticut Water rates in Mansfield are lower than the MDC's non-member town rates. On average, the cost to residential customers in Mansfield would be nearly $200 less per year than under the MDC's non-member town rates (based on use of 15,000 gallons per quarter). At same time, the rates Connecticut Water is proposing to serve the university would be significantly less than what MDC has indicated, because MDC's rates include a surcharge to recover the $51 million capital investment required under its proposal.
Connecticut Water, as a private company, must obtain Public Utilities Regulatory Authority approval for rate increases. Consumers are represented by the Office of Consumer Counsel, which advocates for the interest of customers. Alternatively, the MDC's rates are set by a board representing member towns, which is not regulated by the state.
Some have suggested the creation of a water authority in Mansfield would provide a solution by bringing in water from Windham. The Windham water option, however, would be more expensive than Connecticut Water —- requiring a $44 million investment. Further, the design and construction of a new water treatment plant would take longer to complete.
Connecticut Water already serves customers in Mansfield and surrounding towns. Based on sound water supply planning, we should be the region's water service provider. We are confident that our solution is the lowest cost, with the least environmental impact, and can be implemented more quickly than any other option.
Eric Thornburg is president and CEO of the Connecticut Water Co.