Davidson Water Inc.: Producing Safe, Delicious Drinking Water

Davidson Water Inc. (DWI) was formed by a group of concerned citizens to bring a steady, reliable and safe water supply to the aptly named town of Welcome, N.C. Over the years, the utility has grown from a small operation serving just 2,800 connections to a critical resource provider with over 145,000 dependents. Throughout its growth the water provider has never allowed itself to ease up its standards for safe drinking water not just for today, but also for tomorrow and the days and years that follow.

DWI employs roughly 70 professionals who work together to ensure Davidson County, as well as parts of Randolph County and Forsyth County, have a reliable, safe supply of high-quality water. “We are not a municipally run water company, but one owned by our members, and it is our job to ensure our infrastructure runs smoothly at all times,” asserts Gregg Stabler, general manger at DWI. Stabler joined the company in 1972 after a few successful summers during college working in construction.

As it turned out, Stabler’s prior experience in the construction industry would help shape the evolution of DWI, as the water company continues its efforts to anticipate future water needs. DWI completed work in 2011 on a brand new 100 million-gallon water reservoir to a total of three reservoirs. Not only was a third reservoir created, but DWI also managed to take the dirt excavated form the third reservoir to increase the size of the remaining two reservoirs.

Prepared for Anything

The combined improvements ensure a consistent water supply in times of drought, while simultaneously protecting the reservoirs during times of flooding. The larger the reservoir, the better chance sediments have of settling to the bottom. Therefore, if the nearby Yadkin River should flood – as it did in 2010 – the mud and debris carried by the flood waters would have a better chance of settling down so as not to overload the operation of DWI’s nearby water treatment plant.

DWI isn’t about to gamble the healthy drinking water of many communities on just one extra water reservoir. In 2011 the water company mobilized to begin a major upgrade of the water treatment plant as well, as this will hardly be the first time DWI has invested heavily to ensure the reliability and safety of its infrastructure. When DWI incorporated in 1969, the plants water production capacity hovered around just 2 million gallons daily. Capacity was closer to 20 million gallons daily in 2011 and the most recent upgrades will expand treatment capacity by an additional 15 million gallons daily by the end of 2012.

Of course, expanding treatment capacity requires a great deal of strategizing so as not to shift the financial burden to the water cooperative’s ratepayers. DWI has reined itself it wherever possible to keep overhead costs low. “The economic downturn has had an effect on our projected revenue and growth, but we have been able to keep operating costs down by using our resources as efficiently as possible,” adds Stabler.

The upgrade also secured a $20 million, 40-year low-interest loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program in 2011. That same year North Carolina received a total of $2.2 billion in funds through the program, making it the largest beneficiary of such loan funds for that year.

Reliable, Dependable

“We’re dealing with upgrading infrastructure from the 1960s, but even with the improvements, our first concern is making sure things continue to run smoothly,” opines Stabler. To that end, the water company has opted not to remove the existing raw water pumps, which are capable of pumping up to 30 million gallons per day from the existing reservoir. That reservoir though dates back to 1968, so DWI reinforced its continued success by removing a 4-foot layer of accumulated silt amounting to 30,000 yards.

The new water treatment plant will be outfitted with a brand new 5 million gallon clearwell, a new flash mix, new flocculators, chemical storage, high-performance pumps and a state-of-the-art granular activated charcoal (GAC) filter. The GAC filter ensures the treated water is not only clear of any harmful organic substances – also known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs – and chemical runoff. Additionally, the filter also has the ability to neutralize odors and ensure a clean, crisp taste in every drop. GAC filters also help the plant meet more stringent Environmental Protection Agency standards for drinking water quality, ensuring the plant will be able to stay ahead of the regulatory curve in the years to come.

DWI’s customer base may not have grown significantly since 2009, but the new improvements will ensure the plant can handle even a large commercial newcomer should the occasion arise. DWI has also designed the plant to accommodate many future upgrades with the help of companies like Cooper Electric that specialize in working with water and wastewater treatment plants.

By the end of 2012, the water treatment plant can treat a maximum capacity of 35 million gallons daily with an easily feasible expansion to 40 million gallons daily as well. The new raw water pumps now operating at 40 million gallons daily could likewise be expanded to pump 60 million gallons daily.

Even as DWI turns the corner into 45 years of safe, quality drinking water, the utility still finds the time to give back to the community. DWI will award four $1,000 scholarships to a selection of high school seniors planning on pursuing a four-year degree in the 2012 to 2013 academic year. The scholarships are granted due to respective academic achievements, community involvement and need. In doing so, Davidson Water Inc. ensures a bright future for both the watershed and residents of Davidson County.