Irreconcilable Differences at RWSA?


By. Neil Williamson, President.

After sitting through many hours of public meetings this week (9/20) regarding the community water supply, I have come to a most uncomfortable question – should the RWSA divorce?

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) was created by the County of Albemarle and the City of Charlottesville to receive federal funds for water and wastewater treatment. According to

The RWSA was formed June 7, 1972 as a result of state and federal pressure for Charlottesville and Albemarle to work cooperatively on water and sewer services. After each locality separately filed applications for EPA grants for sewer infrastructure around 1971, the State Water Control Board held a public hearing June 14-15, 1971 and adopted a resolution “to the effect that no further Federal grant would be given either to the City of Charlottesville or the County of Albemarle until the two had formed some type of authority to administer the water and sewerage systems of both, since both were dependent on the Rivanna River for their source of potable water and the receiving stream of their wastewater effluent.”[5]

Negotiations between the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors led to the signing of the Four-Party Agreement dated June 12, 1973 by council, the board of supervisors, the Albemarle County Service Authority, and the RWSA.[6]

So this was a marriage of convenience to facilitate “free” federal infrastructure funding.

A great deal has changed since this partnership was formed.  If yesterday’s (9/21) meeting of the Four Boards (ACOB, ACSA, CCC, & RWSA) is any indication these four groups may no longer have shared goals.  In the meeting, at times they did not even have shared facts. lists these frequently cited reasons for causing divorce:

Lack of commitment to the union

Lack of communication between partners


Inability to manage or resolve conflict

Personality Differences or ‘irreconcilable differences’

Differences in personal and career goals

Financial problems

Cultural and lifestyle differences

On each of these counts an argument can be made that each of the partners may have not met their obligations under the partnership.

Whenever one is considering ending a long time partnership, the costs and benefits to the relationship must be weighed and important questions must be answered:

  • With so much public acrimony, can this partnership be salvaged?
  • Can trust between partners be restored? 
  • Does everyone really want to work toward that end?
  • If not, how will we divide the assets of the RWSA?  How will we as a community provide future water and sewer treatment?

Once again we have more questions than answers.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website

4 responses

  1. Better yet still, can you imagine the reaction the next time someone, anyone, says “maybe the city and county should work together on ….”
    Seriously, I can’t see a divorce happening in this case, there is just too much infrastructure involved. At at best it will be an uneasy coexistence going forward.
    Thank you for your continuing efforts to be a voice of reason in this wilderness.

  2. As I understnd this the majority of County growth is the 29 north corridor from the Rivanna River to Greene county line. So we want to build a dam south of town, run a pipe line South to fill it so we can pump it north to satisfy the growth???

    Me thinks there is something lost in the translation here. Why are we not expanding the nothern resevoir by Dredging or increasing its height versus the expense of new Ragged and pipeline. I am not sure who is on 1st here. As Pogo said ” We have met the enemy and they are us!”

  3. […] is yet one more example of the irreconcilable differences within the City/County “partnership” known as Rivanna Water and Sewer […]

  4. Thanks for a thought-provoking article.

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