Fantastic Environmental Finance Job Opening— Mine!

We don’t normally use our blog for job postings, but this is a special circumstance. The  Environmental Finance Center at UNC (we put out this blog) is currently recruiting for an Executive Director to lead the Center into the future. I have served as the Director for the last 15 years and am leaving later this year to pursue another opportunity. For those of you that read our blog, hopefully you are familiar with the work we do in the area of environmental finance and governance and know the important niche we work to fill. Continue reading

Metrics and Methods to Determine Principal Forgiveness Eligibility: Highlighting EPA Regions 9 and 10

In 2018, the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) published findings from a study that assessed the metrics and criteria used to determine principal forgiveness eligibility in the state revolving funds (SRFs) in EPA Region 4. To complete a more comprehensive analysis, the EFC conducted interviews with program managers/directors and reviewed intended use plans in EPA Regions 9 and 10[1]. The methodology used in this study is the same used for Region 4.

Similar to Region 4, all drinking water SRFs in Regions 9 and 10 use median household income as a metric to determine principal forgiveness eligibility. After median household income, water rates are the most frequently used metric. Other common metrics amongst some states in both regions include population, rate of unemployment, and debt. Metrics used by at least one state are poverty level, designated colonia areas, project type, operation and maintenance expense, and consolidation. For clean water, the most frequently used metrics[2] are median household income, population, and unemployment rates. Continue reading

What to Include in a Successful Interlocal Water and Wastewater Agreement

Co-authored by Liz Harvell

Across North Carolina, population shifts, flooding and drought, changes in industry and manufacturing, and the continuous move toward a reduction in overall water use has continued to create partnership opportunities for large and small water and wastewater systems alike. For large systems anticipating future growth, increased and more economically-savvy water supply may be accomplished through partnering with surrounding communities; smaller systems struggling with increasing costs and decreasing revenues may look towards partnerships with other systems to increase access to capital and reap the benefits of economies of scale. Systems that find themselves with excess capacity due to the loss of large industrial customers may view selling water or wastewater services to neighboring communities as the only realistic way of plugging revenue holes. And while general economic downturns and natural disasters continue to drive water and wastewater customers to relocate, making their systems no longer financially sustainable without some type of intervention, various partnership models are appearing more and more appealing.

While the number of models for creating water partnerships is as numerous as the number of reasons systems have for pursuing them, the most common tool for creating water partnerships in North Carolina is the interlocal agreement.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these agreements in place throughout the state, ranging from simple agreements intended to cover sale of water by Community A to Community B, to a complex series of individual agreements that when taken together can be used to create a consolidated regional utility model.

Earlier this summer, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (EFC) published Crafting Interlocal Water and Wastewater Agreements, a guide laying out important considerations for communities contemplating how a local agreement might benefit their community. Using the EFC experience of providing direct assistance to communities developing partnerships over the last 20 years, this guide identifies 21 key topics of governance, financial, and technical issues that are integral to the success of these agreements. Below are 10 key topics, but be sure to see the full guide complete, with examples: Continue reading

Challenges and Innovations: Current and Future States of Water Affordability: Part 3

Guest Post By Stacey Isaac Berahzer, Christine Boyle, PhD, and Maryana Pinchuk

Note: This is the third in a series of Valor Water Analytics blog posts exploring water affordability, customer nonpayment, and technology that can enable utilities to deliver water more equitably and sustainably to all customers.  It was originally posted to  Valor Water Analytics on June 6, 2019.

Where We Can Go Tomorrow: Exploring Novel Interventions for Nonpayment Reduction

In our two previous blog posts in this series, we explored the definitions and metrics used to assess affordability, discussed the role of customer assistance programs (CAPs) in addressing affordability, and considered some major challenges that utilities face when setting up CAPs. In this post, we will briefly discuss rate structures and policy changes that influence affordability, as well as cover additional novel interventions that may reduce utility customer nonpayment in the water sector and related sectors. Continue reading

What the 2019 North Carolina Rates Survey Data Can do for You

Recently, the North Carolina Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard was updated with 2019 data and the North Carolina Water and Wastewater Rates Report 2019 was published. Are you getting all you can out of these useful resources?

As the start of the new fiscal year approaches in July, utilities across North Carolina will be preparing to enact new water and wastewater rates in their communities. Rate increases can be perceived as negative to the general public, though they are necessary for financial sustainability, and ultimately to protect the public health of the communities they serve. How can utilities convey the important decisions that go into what many just see as an increase in their bill?

That’s where the resources from our 2019 North Carolina Water and Wastewater Rates Survey can help, providing easy to understand visuals, key takeaways from aggregated, statewide data, and the numbers behind it all. Continue reading

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