A Miracle for Saluda County Water and Sewer Authority

December 2018 -

This rural South Carolina utility has waited 18 years for its own water treatment plant. General Manager Jason Fell explains how, with help from USDA’s Rural Development and CoBank, it’s about to get one.

Why is this WTP so important?

Saluda County Water and Sewer Authority (SCWSA) has been in business for only 25 years and has always purchased its water. We’re now in a growth stage that stems from our obligation to serve existing homeowners and businesses. Today, over 70 percent of Saluda County residents don’t have access to treated drinking water.

Why has it taken SCWSA so long to build this plant?

Before I arrived in 2012, SCWSA had already bid twice on this project. Both times it was over budget. SCWSA tried to get financing with a number of banks, and all passed. They saw us as a risk. Only USDA-RD and CoBank were willing to step up. The new water treatment plant is operational. The process of getting this plant to become a reality was, in short, a miracle.

How will the financing work?

The new water treatment plant is a $23 million project. CoBank provided $12.5 million in interim financing for our new water treatment plant project as well as $5 million for our Phase One Waterline project. USDA-RD is providing the long-term financing for both projects. CoBank has been wonderful to work with. Its timing was always quick and responsive, so I could pay my contractors promptly during construction.

Describe some of the plant’s benefits?

It ensures our customers receive great, treated drinking water. It also provides needed capacity to serve all of Saluda County, population 20,000. Our average daily demand is about 1.75 million gallons a day (MGD), peaking at about 2.8 MGD. The new plant will provide up to 6 MGD. It allows us to serve existing and future residents and businesses, including Saluda County’s largest customer, Amick Farms.

What’s next for SCWSA?
  • First, we received $30 million in September from USDA-RD to build our own wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Currently, SCWSA sends sewage 47 miles away to be treated. Operating our own WWTP will save us $500,000 a year.
  • Second, our Phase One Waterline Project, a 16-inch, 8-mile waterline, is almost complete. It’s part of a multi-phased capital improvements plan.
  • Third, SCWSA also received $15.2 million in September from USDA-RD for our Phase Two Project. It’s a 27-mile waterline expansion project in eastern Saluda County.
  • Fourth, SCWSA is constructing a 10-inch waterline to SC Pet Foods Solutions, a new company that will provide 100 local jobs.

In summary, these projects set the foundation for SCWSA to extend service to many more residential and commercial customers in rural Saluda County. Given the size of these projects, SCWSA will be seeking a term sheet from CoBank for interim financing for both the $30 million and $15.2 million projects. We would welcome the opportunity to work with them again.

Saluda County Water and Sewer Authority (SCWSA)

Saluda, South Carolina

General Manager 
Jason Fell

Years with CoBank 

Number of Water and Sewer Customers 
1,352 and rising

Miles of Pipeline 
124 plus another 37 planned

Number of Employees
10 and rising