October 16, 2012 10:09:38 AM
Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]
There are times when James and Shirley Warren wonder why they traded the sunny climes of California for the Mississippi backroads. At least in California, they had reliable access to running water.
Now, the couple buys bottled water by the gallon, toting it across the gravel driveway, up the white steps, past the red geraniums and into their trim, manufactured home.
He is 85; she is 75. This isn't how they planned to spend their retirement.
But by early summer, their water woes -- along with those of their neighbors -- may finally come to an end. The Mississippi Development Authority recently awarded a $120,000 grant, matched by the East Lowndes Water Association, to extend county water to 32 residents along Christian Circle, Frisco Road and East Railroad Drive.
West Point engineering firm Calvert-Spradling will begin drawing up plans as soon as environmental testing is complete. The project will require 15,000 feet of pipe and will cost nearly $240,000.
The Warrens are somewhat luckier than others in the area. They pay $30 to access a communal, electric water pump, and though the water tastes foul and discolors nearly everything it contacts, at least they have it -- unless there's a power outage.
Many are at the mercy of shallow wells and a water table that drops every year. They've tried digging deeper wells, but eventually, those run dry, too. In the summertime, when demand is higher, the water table drops even more. Something as simple as a shower becomes a race against time.
The county water supply is buried nearly 1,000 feet underground, but some residents have wells that extend less than 100 feet deep. District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith said at an April meeting that it could cost as much as $500,000 for homeowners to dig their wells deeply enough to alleviate the problems.
"Most of the time, it's better being on the rural water system than it is not to be," said George Crawford, district planner for the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District. "Even though their well might be pumping good right now, individual, private wells are subject to going out at any time. With public water, if something happens to it, you've got someone to call to come fix it."
Shirley Warren's biggest concern is that her neighbor -- from whom Warren and the others obtain their water -- may discontinue the service, neglect paying the electric bill or be unable to handle repairs.
"This is a necessity for us, and we don't know from one day to the other," she said Monday afternoon. "You hate to ask somebody, 'Are you still going to maintain this pump?' We've been waiting a long time. My husband's done went to two meetings and paid whatever we were supposed to pay. We need our water."
Those who submitted applications for service were required to pay a $75 deposit. Residents who wish to opt into the county water system at a later date will have to pay a $450 deposit to the East Lowndes Water Association.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.