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JEA to spend $1.6 billion to keep up with water demands of growing population

Paying for water infrastructure is JEA’s next critical issue

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the population in Jacksonville continues to grow, it’s going to cost JEA more than $1 billion to make sure that water gets to all homes in the area.

But it’s not only about the water we drink, but also how we get rid of the water we flush away.

With a boom going on with home construction in Duval County, JEA staff says there has been a 2.8% increase in new customers.

During its monthly board meeting Tuesday, News4Jax learned JEA anticipates spending more than $1.6 billion to get water to those customers. The head of the JEA board, John Baker says figuring out how to pay for that is the utility’s next critical issue.

The costs could be passed on to developers, which in turn could pass it on to new homeowners.

“It is a standard utility policy to try and recapture your cost. It is also going to be a big increase [in rates] if we do it, so it’s going to have to be something we are going to have to look at very carefully, very thoughtfully to make sure we are helping the community not hurting the community,” Baker said.

The water issue is also one of the biggest issues facing the new head of JEA, CEO Jay Stowe who just started the job 15 days ago.

“This one touches all areas of our organization. You’ve seen presentations about the $1.6 billion over the next few years in the water area and we will need to have to have a long discussion about that in the months and years ahead,” Stowe said.

Besides at $1.6 billion to get water to homes, JEA also has to talk about getting rid of the wastewater that would come from it.

There’s legislation being considered by the state that would no longer allow the city-owned utility to dump treated water into the river. That’s going to be another cost the JEA board will have to consider.

“We have to see how that plays out and that would be a big number for JEA because we do discharge in the river,” Baker said.

If those new restrictions become law it could mean big changes in where that wastewater would end up.

That could mean more sewage water for yard irrigation or it could be injected back into the aquifer where it could eventually become drinking water.

No word yet on how this could impact JEA bills but it’s the discussion the board will be having in the coming months.

Also at the meeting Tuesday, it was revealed there could be a new senior management team in place in six months.

JEA fired most of the management team following a turbulent year in which there was an attempt to sell JEA.


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