Category: Drinking Water & Wastewater (page 1 of 46)

Four Considerations Before Investing in Advanced Metering Infrastructure

Keondra Jenkins was a fellow in the 2019 Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) program. As part of the LEAF Fellowship, Keondra worked with Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) over the summer of 2019. Keondra graduated in December 2019 from UNC with a degree in Environmental Studies.

What is AMI?

Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is a technology that allows for automated, two-way communication between a water meter and your utility company. AMI provides real-time data about water consumption daily or upon request, using a fixed communication network to send and receive signals from meters remotely. Implementing AMI can improve a utility’s ability to detect leaks, bill more accurately, and engage with customers. When undertaking an AMI project, there are many factors to consider. Here we will discuss strategies to pay for the project, select a vendor, implement the new infrastructure, and consider data management options. Continue reading

Operating at a Deficit: Solutions to a Water and Wastewater Operator Shortage

Daniel Willems is a fellow in the 2019 Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) program. As part of the LEAF Fellowship, Daniel worked with Envirolink over the summer of 2019. Daniel is a second year Masters candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC. He currently works at the EFC as a Research Assistant on a water and wastewater regionalization project.

Across the country, communities are dealing with a shortage of water and wastewater treatment plant operators. This shortage –  largely due to retirements occurring in an aging workforce – is leaving many municipalities in need of immediate replacements or short-term transition plans.  Without qualified individuals to ensure state and federal standards are met for our drinking water and our wastewater, communities run the risk of failing to provide an essential public health service to their residents and local businesses.

Small, rural towns are particularly at risk.  Many of these municipalities rely on operators to be far more than just operators. Small water system operators are often the system record keepers and have extensive system knowledge that may not be written or stored anywhere but in their own minds.  A sudden retirement, illness, or extended leave has the potential to significantly impair system operations.

I learned about the importance of skilled operators and the issues that may arise when they are not present this summer as an EFC Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) Fellow at Envirolink, a private utility management company.  Envirolink operates under a managerial capacity sharing model, which is a public-private regionalization solution. Below are three possible solutions I evaluated to forestall and alleviate the consequences of an impending operator shortage. Continue reading

Imagine a Day Without Water

Today, October 23, 2019, organizations across the county are urging people to “Imagine a Day without Water.” The event, coordinated by the US Water Alliance, is intended to remind us all about the value of water, and to push us to think for just a moment of where we would be without it.

When I recently attended the OneWater Summit in Austin, TX, also put on by the US Water Alliance, many stories were shared about the struggle communities and individuals are facing in Texas when water is scarce or contaminated or inaccessible. Whether the costs arise from hauling in bottled water for years to a community with a dried up well, or from the economic effects of a 6 day boil water notice in a city with a population of almost a million people, the immense value of clean, reliable and sustainable water sources is real for Texans. Continue reading

System Development Fees in North Carolina After the New Law

In 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly passed General Statute §162A Article 8 (Article 8) to establish guidelines for how local government water utilities may calculate and charge System Development Fees (SDFs). SDFs are up-front fees charged to new developments connecting to the water system for the first time. They are designed to at least partially recover the cost of infrastructure investments required to provide the water system capacity needed to serve the development. The law required utilities wishing to charge SDFs to perform a supporting analysis to calculate the fee and follow specific guidance laid out in Article 8 by July 1, 2018.

In 2018-2019, the Environmental Finance Center at UNC surveyed local government water and wastewater utilities’ SDFs and connection fees across the state. Out of all local governments with utilities, 81 utilities, serving 63% of the statewide water utility service population, had reviewed their SDFs following the law’s guidance prior to July 2018 and supplied their fee schedules and supporting analyses to the EFC. This blog discusses four takeaways from the survey results. Continue reading

Metrics and Methods to Determine Principal Forgiveness Eligibility: Highlighting EPA Regions 9 and 10

In 2018, the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) published findings from a study that assessed the metrics and criteria used to determine principal forgiveness eligibility in the state revolving funds (SRFs) in EPA Region 4. To complete a more comprehensive analysis, the EFC conducted interviews with program managers/directors and reviewed intended use plans in EPA Regions 9 and 10[1]. The methodology used in this study is the same used for Region 4.

Similar to Region 4, all drinking water SRFs in Regions 9 and 10 use median household income as a metric to determine principal forgiveness eligibility. After median household income, water rates are the most frequently used metric. Other common metrics amongst some states in both regions include population, rate of unemployment, and debt. Metrics used by at least one state are poverty level, designated colonia areas, project type, operation and maintenance expense, and consolidation. For clean water, the most frequently used metrics[2] are median household income, population, and unemployment rates. Continue reading

« Older posts