Authority seeks to sell water to Braselton
In a bid to lower its wholesale cost, the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority wants to sell more water by flowing water to the Town of Braselton. Currently, Braselton buys its water from Gwinnett County.
By purchasing an extra 11 million gallons a month to re-sell to Braselton, JCWSA would drastically reduce its cost per 1,000 gallons from the Bear Creek Reservoir.
That’s about how much water Gwinnett County sells Braselton and it just raised its rate to $3.60 per 1,000 gallons.
Authority Chairman Hunter Bicknell has been talking to Braselton officials about making the switch, for which the authority has expressed a willingness to lower its wholesale rates from $3.20/1,000 gallons to $3/1,000 gallons.
“We need to do what we need to do to sell Braselton water,” Bicknell said at a water authority work session last Thursday evening.
The matter is not likely to be resolved until a rate consultant hired by the authority has an opportunity to crunch the numbers. It is also possible, members noted, that Jackson County could win the Braselton contract without reducing its rates, since Gwinnett’s rate was just increased.
At the heart of the issue is the authority’s cost of buying water from the Bear Creek Reservoir. With water usage reduced to 12-15 million gallons per month during February and March, the authority’s cost of water hit $6.37 per 1,000 gallons. If it can increase sales to more than $30 million, its cost will drop to around $1.30 per 1,000 gallons.
“As our production or consumption of water goes up, our costs go down,” noted member Alex Bryan.
That flies in the face of what the authority went through last fall, when, due to drought restrictions, water purchases from the reservoir dipped precipitously. In fact, the authority began buying water from Commerce, which had plenty, to reduce the strain on the Bear Creek Reservoir, which was believed to be in danger of running dry. For that, the authority was rewarded with higher per-gallon costs October through December.
Meanwhile, state climatologist David Stooksbury predicts that this spring, summer and fall are likely to deliver continued dry weather. He notes that while some reservoirs have recharged, most area streams are at record low flows for the time of year. All of this suggests the high probability of declining reservoir levels and strict water restrictions later this year.
Accepting a new 700,000-gallon-per-day contract with Braselton with a drought in process might not go over well with the other members of the Upper Oconee Basin Authority, which owns the regional reservoir, but Jackson officials say their water authority is entitled to 25 percent of the reservoir’s output. They also argue that Jackson County uses a much lower percentage of its allocation from the reservoir than the other counties.