Author: Glenn Barnes (page 1 of 7)

The Perils of Comparing Water Rates

The Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducts surveys of water and sewer rates in many states across the country and turns those results into rates dashboards.  In recent years, at least three news outlets in Arizona, Illinois, and North Carolina have used data from these surveys in their stories showing that neighboring water systems often charge vastly different amounts for the same quantity of water.

In the Arizona story, News 4 Tucson interviews a local resident who doesn’t understand why he pays more for water at his system than he would if he were a customer at neighboring systems.

“Water is water to us,” said the customer to News 4 Tucson. “How is it possible that one water company can charge 70 percent more than another water company within a local geographical area?”

Is he right?  When it comes to price, is it true that water is water? Absolutely not.

Many customers incorrectly believe that the cost of providing a gallon of water is the same regardless of which water system provides it.  In reality, there are many factors that can influence the price of water and cause water rates to vary, sometimes significantly, even among neighboring systems. Continue reading

The Nation’s Workforce Related to Water

Some of our workshops for small drinking water systems cover the topic of workforce planning—how do we keep our best employees, and how do we find more great employees to bring on board?  As part of the day, we ask all participants to share how they got into the water business, and we hear a variety of stories.  Some people got into the field based on the recommendation of a friend or family member.  Some start with the broader organization in other roles but eventually find themselves working in water.  Several attendees explain that they were in other fields up until the Great Recession or up until their jobs were outsourced and were looking for a job unlikely to go away. Continue reading

Can Households Afford Water and Wastewater Bills When Faced With Unexpected Expenses?

At the Environmental Finance Center, we think a lot about the affordability of environmental services such as drinking water and wastewater.  Historically, many systems have measured affordability by looking at the cost of service compared to a community’s median household income (MHI), though this measure is limited.  A better way to measure affordability is to look at the cost of service over a range of income buckets.

All of these measures, however, are looking at affordability through the lens of annual income.  That can be a good measure if households only have regular expenses.  But what happens if a household has an unexpected expense?  Would that household be able to cover its regular costs if it had an emergency expense? Continue reading

Environmental Infrastructure Programs under the Omnibus Budget Bill

On Friday, March 23, President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion FY 2018 spending bill that will fund the federal government through September 30.   This budget funds several environmental infrastructure programs that help communities pay for crucial services such as water and wastewater.  How did those infrastructure programs fare in the budget?

Continue reading

Podcast Round-Up: 12 Episodes on Drinking Water Finance and Management

My colleague Stacey Isaac Berahzer, a senior project director here at the Environmental Finance Center, made her podcast debut this week on The Water Values Podcasta series specifically focused on drinking water finance and management.  The Water Values is one of several podcast series that feature content on the drinking water sector.

For those who don’t know, a podcast is an audio file available for download to your computer or mobile device.  Podcasts typically take the form of interviews or stories, and it is a relatively new way to disseminate information about important drinking water topics.  Episodes can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour, and they are a good format to explore issues in greater depth.

Some podcast series focus exclusively on drinking water topics, whilst others are focused more broadly on government, environment, or finance topics, and occasionally feature episodes on drinking water.

The following is a collection of 12 informative podcast episodes related to drinking water finance and management, ordered by air date: Continue reading

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