GRU wants to help families tap into city water

Published: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 12:19 a.m.
A local program that provides eligible families with the opportunity to convert from well water to city water free of charge is being considered for funding to bring it back for a second year.
The ConnectFREE program, established in 2003, was funded by a $75,000 grant from the Alachua County State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) and provided nine families with free installations of water infrastructure to their homes last year.
This year Gainesville Regional Utilities is hoping for funding that will provide up to 45 families with the same opportunity, said Albert White, GRU community relations director.
"We're not out there trying to drum up customers," White said. "We're just trying to provide for low- income customers who want to switch to GRU water."
HeWhite also said that many people who have wells enjoy the taste of the water, and while there is not a big difference between the two types, GRU's water is treated, and the exact composition of the water is known.
After the program was developed last year, GRU began polling different neighborhoods to determine areas where most homes were using well water. These homes were then notified of the program by mail and were asked to respond so that GRU could find areas with the greatest interest in the program. Each family expressing interest in the program was then evaluated to confirm household income and eligibility, White said.
Once the families were approved, GRU water service was set up in their homes and the families become responsible for the monthly cost of the water they use.
The infrastructure built into the homes includes a water meter and a change in the plumbing system bringing water into the homes, which would have cost each household between $1,000 and $2,000, according to White.
While White said that the monthly cost varies by each family's usage, according to figures based on 2003 GRU water rates, an average family of four can expect to pay about $15 a month.
Homeowner Donna Hastings, who lives in southeast Gainesville, was using well water before she had GRU water hooked up in her home in September through the ConnectFREE program.
"We were able to get city water, which we would not have been able to afford otherwise," Hastings said.
While Hastings said that she doesn't see much of a difference between the cost of her well pump and the monthly GRU rates, she said she knew that eventually she would have to start using GRU's water as the incorporated area of Gainesville spread.
Although the cost difference is not much for Hastings, White said that many families who had to spend around $1,000 for repairs on their wells have saved through the switch to GRU water.
"One of the homeowners indicated to me that he had a well repair that cost $960," White said. "That repair would have provided him with about five years worth of GRU water."

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