The City of Falls Church announced Wednesday afternoon that it had agreed with Fairfax County to enter mediation with a federal magistrate judge to try to sell Falls Church’s controversial water utility to Fairfax. This is large news for the approximately 100,000 Fairfax County residents who get their water from Falls Church, but who pay about 60 percent more than if they got it from Fairfax Water.
Besides providing water to its own residents and businesses, about 90 percent of Falls Church’s water customers are in McLean, Merrifield, Tysons Corner and the Falls Church area of Fairfax County. Those residents have felt like they didn’t have a say in how their water utility was run or, more importantly, priced: Last year, Fairfax’s Consumer Protection Commission found that Falls Church was charging a typical customer $62.13 per quarter, while Fairfax was charging $38.76.
Fairfax then passed an ordinance declaring it would set water rates for its residents, including those served by Falls Church. Falls Church sued in federal court, and explored the option of selling its water utility to a private firm. That fell through. Now the two sides are going to meet with U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan on November 8 to see if a sale of Falls Church Water can be negotiated.
“This is a good faith effort by the City,” Falls Church Vice Mayor David Snyder said in a press release, “to continue our long history of regional cooperation.” Fairfax residents who get their water from Falls Church will be watching closely, as will county residents who get their water from Fairfax City or Vienna, who have similar complaints.