Author: Erin Riggs (page 1 of 2)

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

Working Toward a Green School Partnership

On February 8, 2019, over sixty leaders and stakeholders from around North Carolina and the Triangle assembled to work towards facilitating a partnership for green schools in Wake County at the Green Schools Symposium. This event, hosted by the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) and funded by the Conservation Fund, saw representation from the public and private sectors, government agencies, and non-profits. Represented parties included but were not limited to:

  • The City of Raleigh
  • WakeUP Wake County
  • NC Conservation Network
  • North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
  • Wake County Government
  • NC GreenPower
  • American Rivers
  • Wake County Public School System (WCPSS)

In fact, the green schools conversation has been happening for many years in Wake Countyand many of the innovators behind existing green school work in the area took time to attend the symposium. The day was intended to bring together representatives from parallel green school efforts occurring across the county, and to have one conversation that could include many voices.  Although the EFC did its best to reach as many of those individuals as possible, in the end, there were more registrants than the space and food could accommodate! The day included many meaningful connections, sparked enthusiasm and innovative ideas, and continued a conversation that will hopefully be continuing over the next few months to put in place some of the clear cut goals and outcomes discussed below… Continue reading

Partnering via Water and Sewer Authority Board Structures

As utilities across North Carolina consider new ways of partnering with each other, including full consolidation, many are looking at the Water and Sewer Authority model as a potential governance structure. Local governments devolving water asset ownership and control to an Authority or other regional governance structure are often concerned about maintaining some form of control in input on essential services. Under the Authority model, local governments can continue to participate in governance by appointing members to the Authority board.

State statutes provide local government members with the ability to structure their boards to meet their local needs and conditions. Board structures vary across the state based on number of board seats, number of seats allocated to (appointed by) each member, and voting rights of members. In order to better understand the driving forces behind the existing structures, staff from the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reviewed bylaws and articles of incorporation for all of the authorities, and additionally carried out informal interviews with individuals familiar with the board structures from many of the authorities.

The research focused on answering the following questions:

  • What is the status of existing board representation structure for Authorities across the state relative to the communities they serve?
  • What approaches were used to allocate seats on boards?
  • Have boards been modified over the years and, if so, why and how?

Continue reading

Financing Nutrient Management in North Carolina

The EFC Enters Third Year of Considering Financing Strategies for Nutrient Management in the Jordan Lake Watershed.

In 2016, the North Carolina legislature commissioned a six-year nutrient management study to be done through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the purpose of reevaluating the nutrient management strategies for the Jordan Lake and Falls Lake watersheds.

The Environmental Finance Center (EFC) is one of more than a dozen teams working on the study, and our work is focused on the legislative directive to “review the costs and benefits of existing nutrient management strategies,” so that the State can modify such strategies in order to “share costs on an equitable basis. The first three years of the six-year study are focused on Jordan Lake, and the last three years will be focused on Falls Lake. Continue reading

The New Kid on the Block: Carrboro’s Stormwater Management Utility

How Carrboro’s creation of a Stormwater Management Utility exemplifies the increasing need for stormwater finance options.

Effective July 1, 2017, the Town of Carrboro followed in the footsteps of local governments across North Carolina, such as the City of Hendersonville, by creating its first Stormwater Management Utility. According to the Staff Report, Carrboro has experienced an increase in severe storms affecting its area, as well as an increase in state and federal requirements for better and more intensive stormwater management, creating an increasing finance conundrum. Both the Town’s current National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), Phase II permit, and North Carolina’s Jordan Lake rules require that the Town meet certain water quality criteria. Based on recent studies conducted by the Town, it is estimated that it will cost Carrboro, a town with a population of just over 21,000 residents, roughly $4 million over the next decade to comply with the requirements of the Jordan Lake rules. Continue reading

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