The Future of Environmental Finance: Strategies for Financing Current and Future Environmental Challenges
May 5th, 1:30-4:30pm in Chapel Hill, NC
Free and Open to the Public. Live Web Streaming Available.
Who Pays? With What Money?
The costs of environmental services, programs, and infrastructure continue to rise. At the same time, the individuals, communities, and governments tasked with paying for environmental protection are experiencing significant financial challenges. Whether a billion dollar effort to restore a region’s polluted water supply, a $4,000 project to weatherize a financially disadvantaged family’s home, or a program to replace a small town’s 50-year-old water treatment plant, all environmental initiatives share a common challenge: who will pay and and with what money? Without implementing fair and sustainable solutions to these environmental finance questions, the most brilliantly conceived environmental technology or program will likely fall short of achieving its goals.
This public forum will feature engaging presentations from prominent environmental finance experts and innovators from a variety of perspectives that cut across sectors and issues. This event will foster discussion and identify emerging trends, strategies, and ideas that will help answer the basic “how will we pay” questions at the heart of successful environmental protection.
Continue reading You’re Invited: The Future of Environmental Finance Public Forum
Almost two years ago, we wrote a blog post revealing that average residential water use is declining in the State of North Carolina. Similar trends have also been identified in other states and across the country, driven by several factors. It turns out; it’s not just average residential water use that is declining. Despite growing service populations, many utilities have noticed that total demand is falling.
Continue reading Even Total Water Demand is on the Decline at Many Utilities
Last week, my family and I traveled to New York City. There are hundreds of things to do and see in the city that never sleeps. While we may not have seen or done them all, we did see some fantastic and spectacular sights. When asked what they thought of the city itself, my daughters responded using various adjectives including “big,” “bright,” and – my favorite – “lots of windows.” Without realizing it, they had hit on a very important characteristic of the city. With over 350 million square feet of office space and over 43 percent of buildings built before 1945, commercial space in New York City uses a lot of energy. It is big, it is bright and it does indeed have a lot of very old (and most likely drafty) windows. In other words, it is full of energy efficiency retrofit opportunities.
Continue reading Big City, Bright Lights, Energy Efficient Buildings
By Anna McGeehan
“We all live downstream.” In the world of stormwater management, this concept is particularly relevant. Polluted waterways have far-reaching impacts for us all. Increased flooding, higher water treatment costs, strain on existing infrastructure, beach closures, and decreased biodiversity all pose significant and costly threats to communities, towns, cities, and states.
Green Infrastructure (GI), an alternative to traditional urban growth designs, is receiving considerable attention as a cost-effective way to reduce pollution, manage stormwater runoff, improve water quality, and maximize infrastructure investments. GI is an affordable mitigation strategy that uses a variety of techniques, such as native vegetation, rain gardens, bioswales, or porous pavement, to add unique aesthetic value to new or revitalized development site. The EFC’s comprehensive catalog of over 50 GI publications highlights several cities that are leading the country through their use of innovative, comprehensive, and effective GI strategies.
However, outside of these featured case studies, GI projects remain largely piecemeal and single-scale. Further, the EFC’s review of GI literature reveals that there is a perception among many local communities that GI technologies are still emerging and lack a prescriptive framework, and that they can be cost-prohibitive when compared to the traditional pipe and treatment design.
With these concerns in mind, many communities interested in GI are left wondering, “What might a Green Infrastructure project look like in this community?”
Continue reading Downstream Thinking: National and Regional Trends in Green Infrastructure
Today we feature a guest post from The Pollution Finance Center (PFC).
Author’s Note: If you find puns pungent, wade no further into this blog since it dives so deep into pollution finance that you will probably be drowning after the first paragraph.
In order to help finance pollution to the greatest extent possible, the Pollution Finance Center strongly recommends always setting rates for crucial environmental services as low as possible. Thus we can ensure that our water and wastewater systems will collapse with a loud “plop!” maximizing toxic discharges into the water, air, and soil. Then things will go swimmingly for polluters everywhere!
Continue reading Watering Down Financial Sustainability, Public Health, and Environmental Protection
By Emily Kosmala
As a student working under the Wetland Finance program at the Environmental Finance Center at UNC Chapel Hill, I spend most of my time exploring options for financing wetland protection. I’ve been studying new and creative ways to account for the value of the ecological processes that wetlands provide, including carbon exchange, natural filtration, and purification. While I’ve spent hours researching and crafting spreadsheets, I’ve learned the importance of ensuring sustainable revenue streams for environmental initiatives. I believe that this strategy is also beneficial to locally-based agriculture in rural and urban settings.
Continue reading Financing Urban Agriculture: a Growing Field of Possibilities
In previous posts, we have talked about publicly available data on inflationary measures including the Consumer Price Index and the Construction Cost Index as well as on commercial energy use from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the US Census. The US Census also has a rich set of data on the financial position of households within our community. These data are especially relevant and helpful for determining the affordability of government utility services such as water and wastewater rates.
Continue reading Understanding the Financial Position of Households Using the American Community Survey
During the 2014 North Carolina Water and Wastewater Finance course, the Town of Cary and Sensus Inc. presented to the class on a panel entitled “Smart Technology and Water Finance.” During the panel, Karen Mills, Cary’s Finance Director, and Leila Goodwin, Cary’s Water Resources Manager, stated they have adopted advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), colloquially known as “smart meters,” for their drinking water system. This ambitious technological project has allowed the Town of Cary many benefits for their water system, a few of which include: earlier leak detection and repair, improved backflow prevention, and better monitoring of water usage during rationing / shortages, among many others.
Continue reading $napShot: Smart Meters Can Lead to a Flood of Data
Image courtesy of Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education
Restoration and protection of wetlands is one of the four core elements of a wetland program, as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some restoration and protection takes place through wetland regulatory activities, such as during the 401 certification of a development project that disturbs a wetland. In other cases, wetland restoration and protection is voluntary—restoring and protecting the wetland is not tied to a specific regulatory activity but is desired to achieve overall water quality goals. If that wetland is on public land, the unit of government that owns the land can, if funds are available, protect it.
But what about wetlands and other water quality features that are on private property? How can a unit of government encourage the voluntary protection of those crucial water quality features?
Continue reading Encouraging Investments in Wetland and Water Quality Improvements on Private Property through Low-Interest Loans
Water utilities face trying times when communicating the need to increase rates to cover the increasing costs of operating water and wastewater utilities. The issues are complex. The public is constantly bombarded with news from their phones, TVs, computers, etc., and Board turnover can wipe-out years of institutional knowledge. Additionally, customers have a general distrust for water utilities. Perhaps it’s from a history of underpricing and a reluctance of water utilities to actively market themselves (i.e. the “silent service”). Or maybe customers see water rates as just another tax.
Continue reading Eight Communication Strategies to Help Water Utilities Get the Rates They Need