© 2023 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Faucet Twisting Frustrations Prevail

photo courtesy kcmo.org

By Dan Verbeck


Kansas City, MO. – Kansas Citians can expect interruptions in their water service for the foreseeable future, unless city government creates a long-term plan to replace lines, some of which date to the eighteen hundreds. The cards have been laid out by the City Manager.

One of the constants you expect is turning on the tap and having something come out.

A water main only lasts fifty years before it and its fittings start to fail, says City Manager Troy Schulte. He envisions replacing 55 miles every year. It costs a million dollars a mile.

Schulte says it's no aberration you keep hearing about water line ruptures on the news. There were 11 hundred of them last year. This year 14 hundred are expected. Perhaps more, because July had an unusually high number burst.

Some cities have tried selling their water service to private companies to escape paying replacement costs in the multi millions. Schulte doesn't recommend it. He points to Indianapolis. It sold its system. It didn't workout, bought it back, and is now trying to resell to a non profit corporation.

In words of the City Manager, referring to the Indiana Capital City--"those reacquisition costs are usually paid by ratepayers. So if you're looking for long term rate relief, we don't think asset sales are the way to go, especially when you look at the amount of backlog that we've got in the system."

The city manager says any sale of water services should take every bit of up front money and put it back into fixing the system. He is not promoting sale of the Kansas City Water Services Department. Schulte thinks a remedy should fall to the newly re-created " Citizens Commission on Municipal Revenue.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make nonprofit journalism available for everyone.