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Patoka Lake Regional Water & Sewer District Makes Major Water System Upgrades with No Rate Increase

Having a long-term plan for maintaining and upgrading your water utility system is an excellent idea. But sometimes Mother Nature forces you to reexamine even the best of plans.

The Patoka Lake Regional Water and Sewer District (PLWSD) had a multi-phase plan to upgrade its water supply system and had just completed upgrades to its water treatment plant when the drought of 2012 occurred. A water system that was adequate under normal conditions suddenly was put to the stress test. The district was able to fulfill its contracts to supply water, but as the drought wore on the system constantly ran at full capacity while water levels in the tanks continued to drop.

PLWSD is a regional water district serving portions of eight southern Indiana counties and wholesale to 37 water utilities supplying places such as Paoli, Huntingburg, and Santa Claus. Umbaugh has consulted to PLWSD on rate making and bond sales since the District was formed in 1975.

Plans were on the books to upgrade water mains installed in 1977 through 1979 and pumps that were becoming undersized for the growing customer needs. While water supply was sufficient, there needs to be more distribution system capacity.

“Knowing that some of our older bonds would be paid off in 2017, we meant to wait on the next phase of improvements until then, but the drought opened our eyes,” said Bruce Heeke, PLWSD general manager. “We assembled some preliminary cost numbers and moved ahead with engineering to determine what would it take. The board made the decision to go ahead, because a lot of people depend on us.”

By refunding two sets of existing revenue bonds and getting low interest rates on new bonds, the District was able to authorize nearly $30 million in a series of system improvement projects without asking for a rate increase.

The new projects are:

• increasing the water treatment plant’s capacity from 10 million gallons per day to 15 million
• adding a new one million gallon storage tank in Orange County
• adding a new 24” water main to a new Baseline Road storage tank
• adding a new 24” water main to the Ferdinand area
• adding 18 miles of 24” water main lines to southern Dubois County.

Heeke is pleased to say that even with all these improvements the PLWSD has not had a water rate increase since 2008. “We will see how the maintenance and operation costs stabilize. We may need a small adjustment in the future.”

“When circumstances called them to task, Patoka’s Board and staff did an excellent job of getting things done quickly,” said John Seever of Umbaugh. We are very proud to be associated with them.