Every time a new home pops up, Spartanburg Water likely gains another customer.
Although septic systems are still allowed, most of the 2,200-plus homes being built in the fastest-growing areas of western and northeastern Spartanburg County will be tapping into the water system’s Sanitary Sewer District.
Spartanburg Water controls most of the sewer districts, several of which were absorbed decades ago from abandoned textile mill systems.
Spartanburg Water also controls much of the water flow, covering 864 square miles and providing 26 million gallons of water each day to more than 200,000 customers.
While other smaller water systems serve chunks of the county, Spartanburg Water receives most of the new water customers as well, including in the city of Spartanburg.
According to recently released numbers, both the water system and sewer system saw record growth in 2020, and officials see the potential for another record this year.
Sewer and water are the less-pretty but important parts of the big economic development picture that over the past 10 years has brought 195 projects, 14,888 jobs and $6.9 billion in capital investment, as well as an estimated 46,000 new residents to Spartanburg County, according to OneSpartanburg, Inc.
In the first two months this year, OneSpartanburg officials said five projects totaling $573.4 million in investment and 1,359 new jobs already outpace the total investment and jobs for all of 2019 and 2020 in Spartanburg County ($773 million and 1,197 jobs total).
“Wastewater treatment facilities were expanded, roads widened, major water lines put in place all before any companies committed to come to the area,” said Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt, the county’s economic development chairman.
“You build it, they will come. And they have by the billions of dollars of investments and the thousands of new high-paying jobs. It takes vision and action to make it all happen.”
City growth served
A big part of the growth served by Spartanburg Water has been in downtown Spartanburg.
“We see a tremendous amount of apartments coming in and getting permitted,” said Gene Jackson, capital projects officer for Spartanburg Water.
Eleven projects featuring 979 apartments, homes and townhomes are under construction or development in the city. The largest is Liberty Street Apartments with 200 units, Bon Haven with 150 units, Kennedy Street Apartments with 132 units and Northside Station Apartments, 90 units.
“We have crept up from 20 years ago,” said longtime Spartanburg Water CEO Sue Schneider. What we’ve seen in the downtown area, in particular the northside, it continues to grow.”
Last year officials said the sewer system built 19 miles of new sewer line and provided service for 2,571 lots from 40 new projects, bringing in $1.2 million a year in expected revenue.
Also last year, the water system built 10 miles of new lines for 38 new projects and 1,402 homes, adding $700,000 in revenue annually.
A record for new connections
Spartanburg Water also gains revenue from sewer and water taps, which are a one-time charge to each new customer.
There were 2,301 sewer taps last year, eclipsing the 2019 total of 923 taps and the previous yearly high of 1,153 taps in 2018. The new taps brought in $3.3 million in revenue during fiscal year 2020 and through January 2021.
There were also 1,181 water taps in 2020, topping the 2019 total of 930 taps and a previous yearly high of 1,049 in 2008.
The sewer tap fee for each new home is $850. By comparison, ReWa (Renewable Water Resources) charges connection fees ranging from $1,250 for each one-bedroom unit in a multi-family housing complex to $2,500 for a residential home, according to ReWa’s website.
Spartanburg Water’s minimum water tap, meter and capacity fee is $1,515. By comparison, the total minimum water connection fee of Greenville Water is $2,780 for new residential homes and $2,220 for new apartments, according to Greenville Water’s website.
Despite the growth and larger workload, Schneider said she doesn’t expect Spartanburg Water to have to add to its workforce of 300.
She said much of the maintenance and line replacement work is planned well in advance so that the existing workforce can transition from one project to the next.
Projects are also scheduled on a “pay as you go” basis, meaning the next project begins when payment from the previous project is received, she said. As a result, she said no rate increases are anticipated.
Hot growth areas
Outside of the city, most of the recent residential growth has been in western, southwestern and northeastern Spartanburg County.
In County Council District 6, which includes the western areas around Reidville, Duncan, Lyman and Wellford, there are five residential developments totaling 853 units that have been submitted since November, including the 313-home Ravencrest, 277-lot Collier Ridge and 204-lot Iris Meadows subdivisions.
In District 4, which encompasses southwestern Spartanburg County from Reidville to Woodruff and Cross Anchor to Roebuck, there are 652 homes under construction. The largest subdivisions are the 317-lot Sycamore Cove and 167-lot Linden Park.
Jackson said sewer lines were laid several years ago along most of S.C. Highway 290 to serve the industrial growth there and at Tyger River Industrial Park. More recently lines have been extended along Reidville Road to S.C. Highway 417 and Lightwood Knot Road to serve residential growth.
In District 2, which includes greater Boiling Springs and Chesnee and lakes in northeastern Spartanburg County, since November there have been plans for 766 new residential units submitted since November.
Among them are the 244-unit Chestnut Springs townhome development, 128-lot Hazelwood subdivision, 96 lots of the planned 780-lot Pine Valley subdivision and 25 lots of the 124-lot Bexley Park development.
In all, Boiling Springs has 15 subdivisions that make up a total of 1,660 lots either under construction or with construction starting soon.
Partners in growth
Britt said the rate of growth since BMW Manufacturing opened in Spartanburg County in 1994 couldn’t have occurred without the partnership of infrastructure providers, including Duke Energy, Laurens Electric, Piedmont Natural Gas, Lockhart Power, AT&T, Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport and the S.C. Ports Authority with the Inland Port at Greer.
“Companies expect sites to have the basic infrastructure needs ready to go – water, sewer, natural gas, electricity and roads,” Britt said. “If they don’t, you have nothing more than a field or pasture.”
Staff writer Genna Contino contributed to this report
Contact Bob Montgomery at [email protected]