Financing Water Management in a Caribbean Setting  – A Case Study of Trinidad and Tobago

A Caribbean getaway is often on the wish list of summer plans. The warm tropical weather, accessibility to beaches, and lush rainforests beckon. But these very factors often lead to a myriad of challenges when it comes to water resource management on small islands. Increased flooding in Caribbean countries such as Trinidad and Tobago can be linked to development and behavioral practices that encourage erosion and the blocking of water channels. Continue reading

Five Dangerous Financial Myths for Small Water Systems

Small water systems serving 10,000 people or less comprise more than 94% of our nation’s public water systems. They are a large and diverse group, and are managed by a wide variety actors – from local and tribal governments, to mobile home park owners, to homeowners associations, to shopping mall operators and hotel managers. These managers often have many other, very different responsibilities and often face challenges in running the water system. In 2011, 25 percent of the nation’s smallest systems violated health-based standards in part due to their geographic isolation, small staff size, growing infrastructure needs and small customer bases. And as we wrote about earlier this year, small water systems with financial difficulties are more likely to have violations.

Since 2012, the Environmental Finance Center at UNC and the Environmental Finance Center Network have been working to help educate and build financial and managerial capacity within small water systems. Through our work under the Smart Management for Small Water Systems Project, we’ve noticed 5 dangerous myths in financial planning. These myths can appear wherever water system planning occurs, but seem to be most prevalent among smaller communities that are considering creating a new or significantly expanded water system.

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Turning Down the Heat: A Collaborative Effort to Reduce Energy Bills

There’s no doubt about it. June was HOT. And while extreme temperatures in both summer and winter can make outdoor activities unbearable, they can also send electric utility bills skyrocketing across most of North Carolina and place high demands on the state’s electric utility infrastructure. As heating and cooling equipment are pushed to the max, the demands are made even more significant due to inefficiently insulated and poorly weatherized houses which can cause homes to lose cool air as quickly as it is generated. But the cost to weatherize a home can make energy efficiency improvements unaffordable – particularly for homeowners who are already burdened with basic housing costs that can outweigh their limited income. With the aim of providing these homeowners with a solution that will reduce their energy bills and improve home comfort, a collaborative working group has recently been formed by leading energy advisors in the Southeast. Working with multiple stakeholders across the state, the North Carolina On-Bill Working Group seeks to facilitate the development of programs that educate homeowners about energy efficiency and put financing easily within reach for all income levels.

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What Drives Public-Private Partnerships and the Risks to Be Aware of

As the nation struggles to repair, maintain, and expand its infrastructure, public-private partnerships are gaining traction as a strategy for delivering traditionally “public” services. Public-private partnerships (or P3s) are touted on the idea that public projects can benefit from the private sector’s increased competition, more accurate pricing, expanded financing options, and more flexible personnel and procurement processes. In return, the private sector is given the opportunity to access a market otherwise served by the public. It can be a mutually beneficial relationship.

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Key Financial Indicators for Water and Wastewater Systems: Days of Cash on Hand

In previous posts, we outlined how to use the financial statements of a water or wastewater system to calculate the key financial indicators of operating ratio (a measure of self-sufficiency) and debt service coverage ratio (a measure of a system’s ability to pay its long-term debts). Another key financial indicator is days of cash on hand.

Days of cash on hand is a measure of a system’s financial security. In essence, this is how much cash a system has saved up that isn’t earmarked for anything else (unrestricted cash) and estimates the number of days the system can pay its daily operation and maintenances costs before running out of this cash. This is obviously a worst-case scenario—it estimates how long a system can run if it receives no additional revenue, but it is a helpful measure of how long a system can operate if it has a sudden and dramatic reduction in operating income, perhaps from a large customer leaving or from mandatory restrictions due to drought conditions.

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