Buying Back Valuable Time

When Ross County Water Company made the decision to replace its water meters, it needed a quick funding solution to complete the project in its entirety over the shortest period possible. Timing can be everything—and by leveraging its partnership with CoBank, the utility was able to create a plan to upgrade its system, saving valuable time and money.

Ross County is a not-for-profit water system located in southern Ohio, providing residential and commercial services to nearly 15,000 customers. Ross County’s customer base is 95% residential, and since its establishment nearly 54 years ago, it has experienced steady growth from new home construction moving into its rural service territory.

Our board has said numerous times that partnering with CoBank has been one of the best decisions they have made.

The company is committed to serving its community, ensuring customers have access to safe and reliable water. In order to maintain water quality and cost efficiency, water meters must be replaced every decade—and in 2022, Ross County was due for an upgrade.

“Our meters were aging and a large number were not producing radio signals—which meant our team needed to conduct manual reads—and we needed to rectify that as quickly as possible. The best solution was to replace all of our water meters at once,” said Justin Langolf, Ross County’s general manager.

Ross County was already working with CoBank regarding a separate $5 million capital project, which was underway to upgrade its water distribution system.

“In our discussions, our relationship manager informed us that CoBank leases equipment, including water meters, in addition to providing loans. We couldn’t believe the time savings leasing could offer, and we were definitely interested. It was important we replace all the meters rather than over a period of time, and the leasing option with CoBank was exactly what we needed,” Langolf said.

Within three weeks of the leasing acquisition, Ross County was approved for a $3.6 million capital lease through CoBank’s Farm Credit Leasing subsidiary. Despite supply chain issues during the pandemic slowing down delivery times, Ross County installed the meters in just one year.

“Our board has said numerous times that partnering with CoBank has been one of the best decisions they have made. If we didn’t utilize CoBank’s leasing capability, we might still be waiting for funding, and that would have left us in an extremely difficult position,” Langolf said.

As a result of the new meter and capital improvement projects, water efficiency is up 10%— which saves the company and its customers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

“Eventually, the new meters will pay for themselves. We are so grateful for our relationship with CoBank and we look forward to future opportunities with the bank as our lender and trusted partner,” Langolf said.

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2023 Annual Report.