Madison County Facing Potential Water Shortage

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A lot of people are moving in to Madison County, but there's not enough water on hand to keep up with the growth.

The Madison County Water Department says the growing strain on supply is forcing its hand on a big decision, and those water woes only get bigger in the hot summer months.

"We need to address this problem before it gets critical," said Madison County Commission Phil Riddick.

Madison County leaders say the math is simple.  The water is scarce, as is the amount of time left to do something about it.

"If the population continues to grow, we're gonna have a real shortage of water supply in the county," said Riddick.

Riddick oversees the water department, which currently serves close to 80,000 people in unincorporated parts of the county.  Riddick says they've been searching for years, but haven't found new water sources -- leading to a potential H2O headache.

Riddick says it's especially bad in summer, with the department having to borrow roughly half a million gallons of water a day from Huntsville Utilities during the peak use months of June through August.

That has put too big of a dent in the budget.  It's one reason why the county may be ready to pull the trigger on a water sharing agreement with Huntsville Utilities.

"They've got abundant water supply, which we do not have," said Riddick. "The difference it will make is that we won't have to worry about having water or not."

Madison County leaders have previously rejected an offer from Huntsville Utilities to sell the department outright.  However, Riddick says that option is still on the table.

He says customer water bills will inevitably shoot skyward if a decision is not made soon.

"We're about out of water," said Riddick.  "I'd like to make a decision this year. It's something you can only put off so long."

Why does Madison County have so few water sources?  The primary reason is the county doesn't have access to the Tennessee River, a major water source Huntsville Utilities does draw from.

The commission will discuss the issue at Monday's regular meeting.

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