Based on the conversation the Guilford County Board of Commissioners had with water infrastructure experts on Thursday, March 7 at the board’s annual retreat, it’s an absolutely critical issue facing Guilford County – one that can either thwart or promote economic development in a huge way.

Water infrastructure was also a big theme that morning in an earlier discussion the board had with local city and town mayors at the retreat.

The panel of water experts that joined the commissioners and top staff at the discussion table were David Lambert, a representative of the NC Department of Environmental Quality, former Greensboro city manager David Parrish, with the Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority, and City of Greensboro Water Resources Director Mike Borchers along with  City of High Point Assistant City Manager Damon Dequenne, who oversees public services.

The message from the panel was simple and clear. With all the new economic development in and around Guilford County, the existing water and wastewater infrastructure will become strained – and Guilford County government must become part of a regional effort to create more infrastructure if the county is going to continue to have major economic development successes.

The panel spoke about some of the details of cooperation on water projects and also talked about how it had been done successfully in other parts of the state.

Water and the importance of expanding the municipal water system foundation was also a part of the discussion with city and town mayors that took place right before the discussion with the water experts.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan told the board and other mayors, “We’re willing to be good partners, but we also have to be paid for our investments.”

 She said the city has to be compensated and it can’t bear the cost for other municipalities.

The expert panel drove home the reasons why water infrastructure was so important, including its role in promoting economic development, job creation and growth.

A stronger water system infrastructure would help promote more housing – something that’s becoming badly needed in Guilford County.

Vaughan said she had heard that, when it came to the Toyota battery plant near Guilford County, every one of those workers hired could be multiplied by five – due to the new the businesses supporting the plant.

“That’s just Toyota,” Vaugh said, referencing all the other major economic development projects currently taking place in and around Guilford County.

The commissioners got the message that they must take several steps to “mitigate the pressures of population growth,” in terms of water, which is tied to housing developments.

The main reason is that elected leaders don’t want all these new workers coming in to live in other counties.

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said at the meeting: “It’s a good problem to have.  You know the dog that caught the car – we are that dog.  We caught the car.”