How much does it cost to connect to a water and wastewater system?

It varies and it depends. It may cost as little as a few hundred dollars to connect to a rural water system or as much $10,000 or more in other areas such as the coast or fast growing urban centers that are facing high infrastructure costs to add capacity. If $10,000 sounds excessive, consider that connection charges in certain communities in the country facing severe water supply and infrastructure challenges can run as much as $35,000 to $50,000 for a new connection. In North Carolina, the median combined connection cost for a single family water and sewer connection came out to be just under $2,400 (using data from 328 utilities who provide both services and were included in a recent connection charge survey).

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$napshot: Federal Funding Trends for Water and Wastewater Utilities (1956-2014)

In honor of Infrastructure Week (May 11-15, 2015), we dug into a report published by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in March. Public Spending on Transportation and Water Infrastructure, 1956 to 2014 reports on trends in federal, state, and local government spending on infrastructure, using data acquired from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This graph illustrates the federal funding trends for water and wastewater utilities between 1956 and 2014, in 2014 dollars. Funding levels have decreased dramatically — nearly fourfold between 1980 and 2014. The consequence for communities nationwide is even more significant when considering that a majority of the federal funds in the 1970s and 1980s were provided as grants, while the majority of the funds provided since the 1990s have primarily been loans.

CBO’s report includes more detailed breakdowns on federal, state, and local spending on water and wastewater infrastructure. Be on the lookout for a more in-depth look at these funding trends and their financial implications for water and wastewater systems in a blog post soon.

Let the Sun Shine: A Solar PV Case Study

Last month on a sunny day in Raleigh, North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory extended the state’s 35 percent renewable energy tax credit for one year, pushing the expiration for projects that meet certain criteria to December 31, 2016 instead of the impending December 31, 2015 deadline.  As solar installers across the state breathed a small sigh of relief, many potential solar investors were left wondering, “What does this really mean to the cost of solar PV for me?” A few months ago, I was asking myself this very same question. Today, I have a beautiful residential solar PV installation on my roof. Here is my story.

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Who Owns the Water? Pt. 1, Groundwater

This week we bring you a post from our colleague Richard Whisnant from his new blog: Environmental Law in Context.

This is the way the question often comes to me–who owns it?–as a way of asking either who controls water in NC (for beneficial purposes) or who is responsible for it when it does harm (e.g., flooding). Framing the question this way is an unsurprising reflection of the importance of property rights in American law. And property rights do matter for water law. But water, the great solvent, has a way of dissolving preconceptions about ownership of property and forcing anyone who really cares to reexamine their understanding of ownership itself. Things, like water, that are always moving, often in mysterious ways, and that are so vital to us that we can’t imagine life without them, just don’t fit well in simple definitions of “property.” To make matters especially complicated for water, the law has come to treat its ownership very differently as it moves through the eternal cycle in which it always moves: from ocean to sky, back to earth as rain (“stormwater”) or snow, then either infiltrating into the ground (groundwater) or into streams and lakes (surface water), and then passing through myriad human channels, including our own bodies, on its way back to the sea. In this post, I will outline the way NC law treats ownership of groundwater–probably our biggest and ultimately most important store of freshwater.

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Key Financial Indicators for Water and Wastewater Systems: Debt Service Coverage Ratio

In a previous post, we outlined how to use the financial statements of a water or wastewater system to calculate the key financial indicator of operating ratio, a measure of self-sufficiency. Another key financial indicator is debt service coverage ratio, which, as the name suggests, measures the system’s ability to pay its long-term debts.

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