On The Farm

The Essentials: Securing Water

Water is an expensive necessity all urban farmers should consider.

Most urban plots already have a water connection – ours, however, did not. In the unlikely situation that an urban plot does not have a water connection, an urban farmer will need to navigate local utilities to secure a water connection and service. In our case, Greenville County works with Greenville Water. Drilling a well was not an option for us in our community. Similarly, even though we have access to a nearby river and a creek that flow year round, pollution has compromised the water quality. In other words, pumping was not an option. As a result, our only option was to connect to municipal water.

The cost was more than we expected. Between the tap fees and the utility contractor, we paid just short of $5000.

Here is a summary of the steps we took to secure water access:

  1. Contacted Greenville Water. The staff helped us identify the property and the nearby water access lines. Engineers are able to identify which lines can be safely tapped. Take note that some engineering decisions impact the size of the water tap. Tap size will affect the irrigation system design. Tap size also determines the tap fee. These issues should always be discussed with irrigation experts. In addition, the utility engineers also explained to us the need to attain an annexation covenant. This process added a trip to the deed office in our county.
  2. Identify a utility contractor: In our case, we spoke with several construction contractors in the community to identify a utility contractor who had authorization to tap a water line and work with local government to properly locate and excavate roadways. Our contractor was able to help us successfully apply for an SC Department of Transportation permit to locate the line and repair the road for the line installation.
  3. Utility marking: SC811 provided the utility locating services we needed for our contractor. Utility locating services will coordinate with local utilities to carefully mark electrical, gas, and water lines to verify that the contractor can safely dig.
  4. Visit the deed registrar: Our farm location places us near the border of the City of Greenville and unincorporated Greenville County. Due to our location, the City of Greenville requires an annexation covenant agreement for a new water utility connection. The annexation covenant gives the City the right to incorporate the land into the city government services if the community should seek annexation in the future. The annexation agreement has future property tax implications. In our case, the utility required this covenant to be on record in the deed registrar office before the line connection was permitted. We needed to visit the landowner to attain a notarized annexation agreement that was recorded in the deed office. As soon as the utility office received a copy of the deed registrar receipt, they proceeded.
  5. Sign a service contract agreement and pay the tap fees: Our utility will permit the contractor to carry on as soon as they have a signed service agreement. The service agreement establishes that a customer is willing to pay a monthly bill for water service. In our case, we completed the service contract agreement with our limited liability company.
  6. Sewer utility easement: Since our water line had to cross over an established sewerage easement, we contacted the sewer company to verify and mark the easement. This allowed us to be sure of our meter location. 
  7. Schedule the contractor: After we received our DOT permit, annexation agreement, and utility permit, we worked with our contractor to schedule the dig. We reiterated the agreed-upon rates for the job. The contractor showed up on time and installed the waterline by boring under the road. The contractor worked with the utility inspectors to schedule an inspection on the day of installation. To meet code requirements, connections undergo utility inspections.
  8. Connect to the irrigation system: The utility contractor left us with the proper meter, backflow device, and ball valves. The tubing was sticking up out of the ground. Afterwards, we were able to connect plumbing to our irrigation line. In some municipalities, a farmer may need to contact a plumber to install a hose bib.