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