Panelists addressed a variety of moderator and audience questions about water ownership in Western North Carolina. Matt Rose/Carolina Public Press

At its Newsmakers forum held on Oct. 22, 2015, Carolina Public Press held a panel discussion on the ownership and management of public and private drinking water systems in Western North Carolina.

Panelists were Kim Colson, director, N.C. Division of Water Infrastructure; Katie Hicks, assistant director, Clean Water for North Carolina; Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson; and Lee Smith, utilities director, Hendersonville Water and Sewer. The event was moderated by Carolina Public Press’s Investigations and Open Government Editor Jon Elliston and its lead environmental contributing reporter, Jack Igelman.

The Newsmakers forums are events held by Carolina Public Press that allow journalists, top policy makers, elected officials, business and community leaders to have an open and nonpartisan dialogue with the public about top issues facing Western North Carolina.

The event coincides with a special reporting project looking at water and water ownership in the 18 westernmost counties of the state. In-depth stories include reporting on the the degree to which private utility companies own water systems in the region, how much residents pay for water, and an investigation into an attempt by the Polk County Commissioners efforts to secure a 75-year transfer of the management of the county’s water system to a South Carolina water district, a proposal that has since been pulled. It also includes reporting on a N.C. Court of Appeals decision ruling against the city of Asheville regarding a case contesting the future management of the its water system.

Invited panelists to the Newsmakers event included representatives from the city of Asheville, the N.C. Utilities Commission, Aqua NC and Utilities Inc., among others. All declined, for varying reasons, to attend.

Keep abreast of Carolina Public Press’s current and ongoing coverage of the issue here, and watch a video of the entire forum below.

YouTube video

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Angie Newsome was the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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