Category: Smart Management for Small Water Systems (Page 2 of 9)

Clean Water Access Challenges in the United States

Water and sanitation access challenges are often thought of in the extremeslack of a clean water source in a village or community or lack of indoor plumbing in homes. But the reality is that many individuals living in or around some of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the United States, with some of the most sophisticated drinking water and wastewater systems and infrastructure, suffer from significant access challenges as well.

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Why Being Small is Hard; Big Challenges of Small Water Systems

Access to clean and safe water does not come easily. While we may have mental images of people in distant parts of the world  spending their whole day traveling to and from water sources and preparing it so that it is safe to consume, in the United States, we’ve come to expect clean and safe water at the turn of a tap. This water that flows freely from our faucet didn’t get there quickly, however. In order to provide safe and clean drinking water, systems collect water, treat it through various means, and disseminate it out through a complicated infrastructure system, so that it can show up in our household when we want it. Large urban water systems in the United States may have their own special challenges with consent orders and older infrastructure. But small water systems in the United States have special challenges owing to their size. There are probably more of these small water systems in this country than you realize.

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Are Utilities that Need to Raise Rates Actually Raising Rates?

What happens if a water utility collects less in revenues than it pays in expenditures in one year? It will raise some alarms, but some utilities might be able to weather that shortfall by dipping into their reserves and bounce back the following year. But what happens if a water utility collects less in revenues than it pays in expenditures in three consecutive years? That is probably a strong indication that the rates it is charging its customers are too low. Assuming that expenses cannot be significantly reduced, a rate increase is almost certainly necessary. So are utilities in this position raising rates the following year, or are there obstacles that may be chronically preventing the adoption of rate increases? In this post, I analyze ten years of financial and rates data from hundreds of North Carolina utilities to explore this question.

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Trends in EPA Violations in Water Systems

Here at the Environmental Finance Center, we work with water systems across the country to help them improve their financial and managerial capacity. While there are many reasons why it is important for water systems to have sound management and financial practices, one very important reason is that it can help water systems meet regulatory requirements. Two years ago, my colleague Shadi Eskaf looked at how financial difficulties affect the probability that a water system receives a health violation. This post explores a few other interesting trends in water violations using EPA data from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. To give some context, there were 69,934 violations during this time period—which were committed by 24,725 systems. We compared these violations against EPA’s database of 147,413 publicly regulated drinking water systems.

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