Author: Stacey Berahzer (page 1 of 5)

Four Ways Water Utilities Can Weather a Hurricane

Millions of United States citizens continue to battle the effects of massive hurricanes this month. Many have lost electric and water service. As water and wastewater utilities struggle to get their systems up and running again, some are in a better position than others. What makes a utility more resilient in the face of this type of natural disaster?

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Won’t you pay my Bill?| Pathways to Getting Some Customers to Help Pay the Bills of Others

“Won’t you pay my bill?” is a question that the water utility asks of the customers who do not pay their water, wastewater, and even stormwater bills. But low-income customers are, essentially, asking the same question: will you—higher income customers—help pay the water bills of the poor?

National organizations like the American Water Works Association have policies related to non-payment. AWWA says “[f]ailure on the part of the customer to pay a water bill for services rendered necessitates that other customers bear the costs associated with the non‐payment of water service.”

But is it worth it to the water utility to use the rate revenues from one group of customers to subsidize the rates of another group of customers via an assistance program? More than that, is it even legal?  Continue reading

Four Factors that Allow One Utility to Provide Financial Assistance to People Who Don’t Even Have a Water Account

When setting rates, most water and wastewater utilities are concerned (at least to some extent) about whether their customers can afford the resulting bills. Many utilities are also wondering how they can assist the poorest segments of their customer base with the cost of water/wastewater service. However, a frustrating problem is that a lot of low income people live in multifamily housing, such as apartments, and do not actually have an account with the water utility. Even though they don’t receive a bill directly, these tenants are paying for the water/wastewater service indirectly via their rent. So some utility managers have been grappling with effective ways to provide assistance to these water users. Different theories involving vouchers etc. have been espoused, but one utility seems to have actually solved the problem.

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Six Keys to Improve Your Water Utility’s Credit Rating – A Cheat Sheet

Water and Wastewater utilities receive “credit ratings” just as a private individual has a FICO® score. While organizations like the Fair Isaac Corporation calculate personal credit scores, for entities like local government utilities, the three groups that generate credit ratings are Fitch Ratings, Moody’s, and Standard and Poor’s (S&P). For the utility, a higher rating means better access to credit, and at more favorable terms.  S&P published the criteria it used for “Water, Sewer, And Drainage Utility Revenue Bonds” in 2008. To say that things have changed with the economy since 2008 is an understatement! In 2014 S&P solicited comments on its re-worked methods and assumptions for calculating these credit ratings. The new criteria will result in credit rating changes to 1 in 4 utilities (of the 1,600 utilities that S&P rates). Some ratings will go down. How can your utility be among the 200 that will have a higher credit rating?

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Who is Supplying Water in Puerto Rico?

About 96% of the population in Puerto Rico receives water from the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA). But the other 4% of the population is supplied by about 240 very small water systems. In teaching workshops this year in Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia and Colorado, it’s obvious that despite their similarities, each state’s small water systems believe that they face unique management challenges. Puerto Rico systems, however, may have a bona fide claim on uniqueness.

Puerto Rico Workshop1

Workshop in Arecibo, PR. Hosted by Universidad de Puerto Rico en Arecibo

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