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June 29, 12-3 PM Bishop Barber & The Poor People’s Campaign Stand Against Environmental Injustices in Northampton County! For more info, view the flier HERE

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Privatization of Water/Wastewater Infrastructure is Not a Solution for Small and Rural Communities

Rural communities often lack access to reliable water and wastewater infrastructure

  • Drinking water in these areas primarily comes from unregulated private wells.
  • Rural utilities must maintain more miles of service lines, with fewer customers to share the costs. These challenges often lead to degraded infrastructure and financial trouble.
  • NC is more rural than the national average, with a higher percentage of well users. There are also numerous community wells regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. NC attempted to address rural water challenges by incentivizing acquisition of small, aging groundwater systems by investor-owned utilities – primarily Aqua North Carolina and Utilities Inc.

The acquisition of small, rural systems by corporate utilities has increased disparities, injustices for rural residents

  • Disproportionate cost impacts: NC regulators allow costs to be spread equally over all of a company’s ratepayers. Poverty affects rural counties at a higher rate than urban counties in NC, causing concerns about affordability of increased rates, but the repairs and new projects that these increases cover are disproportionately concentrated in wealthier and more urban areas.
    • From 2013-2016, Aqua North Carolina charged its statewide customers $6.7 million for filters to fix discolored water; almost 80% of these filters were installed in urban counties.

Responsiveness to service problems

  • Large, corporate utilities typically save on expenses by maintaining only minimal staff, keeping them from responding quickly to service problems in remote areas. Aqua NC operates more than 1600 community wells and 60 wastewater treatment systems in 50+ NC counties, yet they only have 160 NC employees.
    • Residents in rural Henderson County have experienced frequent water line breaks which often take days to address because the nearest company technician is based 2 hours away in Gaston County.
    • Inspections by state water quality regulators may be less frequent in remote areas.

A true solution for rural areas will require local, state, and public federal funding and resources for small communities

  • The WATER Act would be a first step, providing funding for technical assistance to help rural and small municipalities improve their water and wastewater systems, and assistance to rural households for septic fields and private drinking water wells. Read it here.
  • Please contact your member of Congress and ask them to support H.R. 1673, The WATER Act (Water, Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability Act of 2017). Find your member of Congress by looking it up by zip code at this link.


Water provided by private utility Aqua NC in a rural community near Gastonia, North Carolina, discolored by iron. Although meeting all legal guidelines, the water is undrinkable.


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