It is estimated to save the county about $8.5 million a year, payments that were made to Baltimore for use of its water which was a higher price than county water. The county would pay the difference while residents paid county rates.
That water is available today after Schuh and Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works director Chris Phipps turned a “golden” key. The key was a valve turner, a T-shaped rod that hooked to a large metal pipe underground. It was spray painted gold for the event. The two men twisted the key about 10 times, though nobody was counting out loud as they did it.
After turning it, Schuh patted the key and said “We are water independent.”
There are several reasons to move from city water to county water, officials said. First, the county’s water was cleaner because it comes from underground and requires less disinfecting than the open reservoirs of Baltimore City water. Also buying water from the city was more expensive than providing local water.
Lastly, it’s a matter of the county being self-sustaining.
The city’s water will still be available in an emergency, but the county is providing these utilities to its own residents now, Schuh said.
Wednesday’s announcement was a project a decade in the making. North county had been using Baltmore City water for decades and in 2007 the county began upgrading its water infrastructure. In doing so they took advantage of a nearby aquifer. Those improvements included expanding the Crofton Meadows Water Treatment Plant to 15 millions of gallons per day in 2011 and the Arnold Water Treatment Plant to 16 millions of gallons per day in 2012. The county’s water investments totaled $148 million, including $25 million for water infrastructure upgrades.
The plans slowed down during the 2008 recession, but Schuh’s administration saw how close the projects were to completion and fast tracked them, completing them a few year earlier than anticipated, the county executive said.
“Our system is much younger than Baltimore’s...it is not as susceptible to father time,” Phipps said. “We feel very confident with the county’s investments in our system we have a reliable system that is going to serve future generations to come.