Author: Lexi Herndon (page 1 of 6)

Planning, Policy, and Communication Strategies for Rate Increases: One Utility’s Perspective

Guest Post by Shane Hoffman

The water industry is entering a period of increasing costs and declining consumption. Inflationary costs for water utilities are far outpacing normal inflationary costs as measured by the All Items Consumer Price Index (CPI). The need to replace aging infrastructure such as distribution mains and treatment facilities is expected to increase dramatically in the future. Further, in recent years water-saving devices and appliances coupled with increased awareness of conservation have decreased indoor and irrigation-related consumption. These two factors lead to lower revenue and higher costs over the long term. Given these trends, many utilities will need to pass rate increases to ensure financial stability and continued delivery of safe, high quality water. But success in rate increases isn’t always easy: to accomplish this, water utilities will need to develop a comprehensive strategy involving the areas of planning, policy, and communication.

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Seven Strategies for Identifying Who Is Willing and Able to Pay for Household Water Services

Guest post by Urooj Amjad

Accurately identifying vulnerable groups and their commitment to pay, or incapacity to pay, is a timeless challenge in household water services. When consumers pay for household water service delivery, they are paying for the water, its delivery to their home, the infrastructure used in delivery, and the maintenance of supply and safety of their water. And depending on the water utility, sewerage charges are also calculated based on the water used. Similarly, the water provider depends on revenue from consumers for maintaining its services to be financially sustainable and aligned with public health standards.

However, not all households have consistent or sufficient income to pay for their water bill among other utilities, housing, and living costs. Adding to the challenge, some households may not perceive the quality of the water or its volume to be sufficient to fully pay their bills or on time. Some water utilities may already have a plan for supporting their most vulnerable consumers, or are exploring how to enhance existing plans. Strategies for identifying who are willing and able to pay could include:
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A New Employee Benefit: Energy Efficiency Programs

Guest post by Amanda Sear, Research Assistant, Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative

As the temperature starts rising outside, energy bills can trend skyward as well. In the summer and winter, insufficient insulation and poor weatherization can make houses leak cool and warm air almost as quickly as it is generated. While many people are aware that home energy efficiency improvements can lower utility bills, investments in energy efficiency retrofits are not every homeowner’s priority.

In the interest of encouraging its employees to invest in energy efficiency projects, in 2012, Duke University began a five-year effort to identify the barriers that prevent homeowners from retrofitting their homes and determine the best strategies to overcome them. This culminated in an energy efficiency pilot program aimed to help Duke employees complete energy efficiency home retrofits and track reductions in energy use and carbon emissions. The Environmental Finance Center at UNC provided financial advisory and program management support for this pilot program and collaborated with DCOI on the final evaluation of the program.

The full report, which evaluates the results of Duke’s pilot program and makes recommendations for Duke and other employers implementing employee-based energy efficiency programs, can be found here.

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Costs, Benefits or Function – What really drives water reuse?

Guest Post by Lars Hanson

For utilities across the country, water reuse has been attracting a great deal of attention recently, and with good reason. As utilities and the communities they serve grow and mature, they find themselves managing increasing pressures relating to water availability, competition, customer service needs, and evolving regulations. These pressures require the Water Resources Utility of the Future to begin paying more attention to the interrelated nature of the core water management functions, including water supply and treatment, wastewater collection and treatment, stormwater management, and flooding and flow management. In addition to more coordinated planning, new ways of managing water will be needed to coordinate these functions. Water reuse is one water management tool that allows linking these functions, while also potentially providing a financial return when reclaimed water is sold.

But what is water reuse anyway? Water reuse, often referred to as water recycling or water reclamation (and hopefully not ‘toilet-to-tap’), is a general term referring to the treatment of a ‘used’ water source followed by subsequent beneficial use. Simple enough, but that definition perhaps oversimplifies the huge range of water reuse system concepts, and why water reuse projects are built.

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The Blue Economy: Linking Water to Economic Revitalization

Over the last several decades, the economy of North Carolina has undergone major transitions. Once home to thriving tobacco, furniture, and textile industries, we’re seeing more and more emphasis on high tech solutions to modern problems. We’re now a state of leaders in technology, education, manufacturing, green industry, and health care. Of course we’re not alone in this transition, as many communities are experiencing a decline in manufacturing and other once strong industries. In previous posts, my colleagues have written extensively on how water plays an important part in community economic development. But what role does water play in a transitioning economy?

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