Local Commentary

Editorial: F.C. Must Keep Its Water System

There are, to us, very clear reasons why the general public in Northern Virginia, including but not limited to the citizenry of Falls Church, is best served by the continued ownership and operation of the Falls Church Water System by the City of Falls Church.

It is particularly distressing in the current lynch-mob environment against the City and its operation of the water system how many supposedly-responsible personages know so little about the facts. This includes the campaign manager for a Northern Virginia Democratic state assembly candidate who has gone on record against Falls Church without researching the City’s website-published case justifying its need for a modest rate hike.

Some loud Fairfax County users of Falls Church water don’t seem to mind coming into the Little City to lob angry, rude invectives against the City’s political leadership. The disrespect smacks of the playground bullies who feel they can heap insults on smaller children because they’ve got their big brother (Fairfax County) backing them up.

Still, it is understandable that county users of City water would be unhappy with any rate increase, when the cost of Falls Church water is already higher than the Fairfax Water System’s, even if it amounts to only pennies a day on average. They are right to expect answers on why the increase is necessary, incivility notwithstanding, and the answers are there on Falls Church’s website.

The issue is not about the City’s ability to deliver quality water services to all its customers. No one is making an issue of that. It is simply the cost, and since a Fairfax Court ruled against the City’s ability to take a result on investment for its water service, despite the fact many utilities in the state do it, political forces inside the county have encouraged more and more user dissent in the wake.

So, the City has made good on the court order, and no longer takes a dime to cover the risks its citizens assume for maintaining and improving the system to the benefit of over 100,000 users outside their city limits.

But what would happen if Falls Church coughed up the system and Fairfax took it over?

First, the cost increases would not go away, as they’re based on real needs of the system. Instead, they would be passed onto all the county’s water users, resulting in rate hikes for 90 percent of the county’s users who wouldn’t have them otherwise.

Second, the county would be free to impose a hefty return on investment surcharge on its water, since it would be doing it to citizens within its jurisdiction (which would be legal under the recent ruling). This would be to everyone’s detriment who gained from Falls Church’s court-ordered cessation of the policy.

Third, there is no guarantee to citizens of Falls Church, much less the county, that the county will provide the level of service that the Falls Church system has been known for over more than 75 years.