Water Supply Concerns Grow In Madison County

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-A lot of people moving in, but is there enough water to keep up with all the growth? That's the dilemma the Madison County Water Department is facing, as they try to navigate the growing strain on supply.

County leaders say they've likely tapped out available water sources, even though their customer base keeps expanding. The water department currently serves close to 30,000 households in unincorporated parts of the county. Madison County Commissioner Phil Riddick says it's led to costly emergency borrowing from neighboring Huntsville Utilities, an expense he calls unsustainable in the long-term.

"We're getting close to that line," said Commissioner Riddick, who oversees the water department. "If we don't do something now, we'll be having a water shortage in Madison County...when industries come here, or families move in here, it's critical that they know we have that water supply."

Riddick says the water woes are especially troublesome in the peak use summer months of June, July and August. The water department sometimes has to borrow up to 500,000 gallons of water a day from Huntsville Utilities. But Riddick said the borrowing rates and expenses would be much lower if the county can reach a long-term water sharing agreement with Huntsville Utilities, which would ease the strain on both finances and available water supply.

"If we can keep that amount low enough, then we can probably absorb the additional cost without passing it on to our customers."

The Madison County Water Department does not have access to the Tennessee River, a major water source that Huntsville Utilities does draw from. Commissioner Riddick said negotiations on the long-term water sharing agreement continue, and is hopeful a deal can be struck within the next few months.