Local Commentary

Editorial: Not a Drop To Drink?

Don’t be fooled. Fairfax County’s designs on encroachment into the traditional service area of the City of Falls Church’s water system are not with the thought of lowering consumer water costs in mind. Not at all, not even for a minute. It is not to provide customers with a “choice,” not for lowering costs through competition.

This scheme has nothing to do with competition and lower costs. It is a power play aimed at enticing Falls Church to give up its system.

There is no way, realistically, that Fairfax could carve into the Falls Church service area without incurring an exorbitant cost, and Fairfax officials know this. Are they intending to dig and build a rival system of pipes and pumping stations in Falls Church’s service area? That is a ridiculous notion on its face. If they tried that, it would drive up the cost of water to all Fairfax’s customers far beyond what they’ve seen so far. The notion of a parallel system of water pipes and pumps is the most absurd notion of government waste and redundancy imaginable.

So what do Fairfax officials think they’re doing? It can only be that they hope to force Falls Church to say “uncle,” to come to the negotiating table for the purpose of disposing of its most valuable asset, a clean, safe and reliable water system that serves over 100,000 folks in Fairfax County from Merrifield to Langley. It’s no secret that Fairfax covets the Falls Church system and it’s not because it thinks by acquiring it county customers will be better served.

It’s all about the money that it would pocket from hook up fees and services that are promised with the unprecedented new development boom now on the drawing boards for Tysons Corner and Merrifield. Its also about the leverage Fairfax officials would like to have in the development process, with water hook up and related fees potential bargaining chips. In short, Fairfax wants to steal Falls Church’s lunch, plain and simple. But it can realistically do it only if Falls Church feels sufficiently intimidated and bullied.

So far, Falls Church has proven anything but willing to be so cowed. It has hit back swiftly with a lawsuit and, now, a court appeal.

Fairfax customers rooting for the county over the City of Falls Church in this dispute should think twice. If the county wins out, there will be one system, not two. Since when has reliance on one of anything in life, where there is no competition or recourse, been good for the consumer? Fairfax wants to be in a position of omniscience with regard to all utility services in its jurisdiction, and that means no limits on future policy decisions, including raising water and sewer rates far above their current levels.

The true value of its water system to Falls Church is the value of all the projected income it will bring over the next 50 years, at least. That is a price that Fairfax would never be willing to pay.