Charleston Water System (CWS) 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 on June 12, 2020. Both Triple-A ratings apply to CWS’s $119.6 million Series 2020A Taxable and 2020B Tax-exempt Waterworks and Sewer System Refunding & Capital Improvement Revenue Bonds. In addition, both research agencies also affirmed their Triple-A rating on the system’s existing revenue bonds along with giving a stable outlook. CWS initially received the S&P AAA rating in 2010 and Moody’s Aaa in 2015. Since those initial upgrades, the utility has had nine affirmations of this rating by S&P and seven affirmations by Moody’s. CWS is the only combined water and wastewater utility in South Carolina to hold a Triple-A rating from Moody’s.
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.“These top bond ratings continue to reflect our utility’s hard work, strategic planning, and financial integrity – all of which are helping our organization navigate the Coronavirus pandemic,” said CEO Kin Hill. “Financial management has always been a source of pride for our staff and Board of Commissioners, and our customers are the direct beneficiaries.”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 through water and sewer rates and fees, while the utility’s capital improvements program is funded through water and sewer rates, new development impact fees, and interest income.The CWS 2019-2022 Capital Improvement Program consists of critical water and sewer infrastructure projects including:
“AAA ratings are holistic evaluations, focusing on more than just strong financial management,” said CFO Wesley Ropp. “For example, our financial strength has allowed us to be flexible and adapt to the needs of our customers during the pandemic, which these rating agencies appreciated.”