Charleston Water System (CWS) recently earned the highest possible bond credit ratings from Moody's Investors Service (Moody’s) at Aaa and S&P Global Ratings (S&P) at AAA. Both Triple-A ratings apply to CWS's $129 million Waterworks and Sewer System Capital Improvement Revenue Bonds, Series 2019. In addition, both research agencies also affirmed their Triple-A rating on the system's existing revenue bonds. CWS initially received the S&P AAA rating in 2010 and Moody’s Aaa in 2015. Since those initial upgrades, the utility has had eight affirmations of this rating by S&P and six affirmations by Moody’s. CWS is the only combined water and wastewater utility in South Carolina to hold a Triple-A rating from both research agencies.
These ratings reflect CWS'’s sizeable, regionally important service area that is projected to experience continual growth, as well as low risk operations and very strong operational and financial management. High liquidity also played an important role in the top ratings.
“The best companies, governments, and organizations who have strong financial management as a whole get AAA ratings,” said CFO Wesley Ropp. “CWS has a history of reinvesting in our infrastructure to meet the needs of growth while protecting the environment in the greater Charleston area for future generations.”
Strong bond ratings help utilities market their bonds at the lowest interest rates possible, which helps to minimize water and sewer rate increases needed to repay debt. CWS operations are funded safely through water and sewer rates and fees, while the utility’s capital improvements program is primarily funded through bond proceeds and impact fees.
“Strategic planning, financial integrity, and operational efficiencies have garnered these important ratings,” said CEO Kin Hill. “Charleston Water System strives for excellence through continual improvement, and saving money for our rate payers while providing a reliable and vital public service is always our top priority.”
The CWS 2019-2022 Capital Improvement Program consists of critical water and sewer infrastructure projects including:
- Plum Island WWTP Phase 4 Improvements
- Peninsula Trunk Main 3A – Phases 1 and 2
- West Ashley Transmission Main
- Water Main Replacements / Rehabilitation Program
- Customer Service / IT / Emergency Operations Facility
- John’s Island Wastewater Interceptor System Expansion - Phase 3
- Thomas Island Regional Pump Station and Sewer System - Phase 1
- Gibson Raw Water Pump Station Improvements
- Hanahan Water Treatment Plant Disinfectant Contact Basin
- Ben Sawyer – Intracoastal Water Main Crossing
- Pump Station and Collection System Rehabilitation
Assistant CEO Mark Cline stated, “These new bond ratings reflect our commitment to operational performance excellence that has been achieved by being certified with the international ISO 14001 environmental standard and participation in continuous improvement initiatives such as Effective Utility Management and the Malcolm Baldrige Excellence Framework.”