Author: Austin Thompson

What’s Trending? A Look Into North Carolina Household Water Bills and the Income to Pay

The 2019 North Carolina Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard was deployed just over a month ago, marking another year in a long partnership between the Environmental Finance Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, the North Carolina League of Municipalities, and the North Carolina Division of Water Infrastructure. One of the benefits of such a long and successful partnership is the wealth of historic rates data.

The Rates Dashboard provides an up-to-date look at rates and financial sustainability indicators for utilities around the state, but it is merely a snapshot. By looking at trends in rates and demographic factors, such as income, the numbers and changes start to tell a story. A trends analysis was produced for a recent course on Water and Wastewater Finance at the UNC School of Government, looking at rates from 2009-2018, EPA SDWIS Service Population data from 2009-2018, and income, from US Census American Community Surveys, from 2007-2017. The figures below are adapted from that analysis. The analysis is restricted to utilities that have participated across all years and availability of data. By looking at the overall trend rather than the specific values, the resulting patterns can provide considerations for utilities across the state. Continue reading

Where the ARC meets the EFC: Program Evaluation

A Program Evaluation of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Projects, FY2009-FY2016

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood in Martin County, Kentucky and declared “an unconditional war on poverty in America.” As part of this initiative, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) was created: a congressionally appropriated commission that invests in economic development projects in Appalachia, an area of the country that was lagging behind in public health, infant mortality, education, and income level. Fast forward to today, and Appalachia still struggles with job loss and economic downturn. Many counties in central Appalachia built economies around coal mining, and as America’s energy profile shifts away from coal and towards other options, coal towns often need help investing in local infrastructure to improve quality of life and promote economic development. Continue reading

Growing Economies and Shrinking Coastlines: Financing Wider Beaches

As of 2014, NOAA estimated that about 40 percent of the US population lives in a county on the coast and these coastal counties are responsible for 56 million jobs. As a nation, we have developed heavily along the coastlines, building large and valuable assets on property that may erode. As communities along the southeastern coastline have experienced and can likely attest to, there are very few viable options for slowing coastal erosion that do not either cause more erosion downdrift or damage to coastal ecosystems. To date, most communities have found beach nourishment to be the most viable option. So what is beach nourishment and how do we pay for it? Read on for answers to these questions and more: Continue reading