Category: General Information (page 1 of 15)

Using Utility-Level Data to Study the Affordability of Water Rates

The affordability of water and wastewater rates is an issue attracting more attention than ever.

In particular, “A Burgeoning Crisis? A Nationwide Assessment of the Geography of Water Affordability in United States”—a recent paper from Michigan State University— has generated a great deal of debate and dialogue about the issue. The paper is worth reading for yourself, but the primary conclusion is that over the next five years, at least 35.6% of the U.S. population will have combined water and wastewater bills greater than 4.5% of their community’s median household income. One aspect of the paper that stood out to us here at the EFC was the numerator in that calculation—i.e. the combined bill.

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How Two Private Water Companies are Changing New York Water Affordability

The New York Public Service Commission entered an Order Adopting Low Income Modifications in May 2016, which applied to commission-regulated gas and electric utilities in New York. The Commission established within the Order a robust regulatory policy framework for addressing low-income electric and gas customer needs. Despite this major advancement in addressing affordability issues for regulated energy utilities, private water utilities in New York have yet to implement large-scale, low-income water customer assistance programs (CAPs)—but this appears to be changing.

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‘Tis the Seasonal Rates: A Quick Look at Seasonal Rates Across Six States

During my first year at the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) I have worked on water and wastewater rate surveys in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Arizona, Hawaii, and Connecticut. While uniform, block, and tiered rate structures are commonly used by water and wastewater utilities, seasonal uniform rate structures are rarely implemented.

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Three Strategies to Reduce Costs: Purchasing Partnerships for Water Systems

Drinking water and wastewater systems may be able to reduce costs by partnering with other systems. These partnerships can range from informal agreements to the transfer of ownership and creation of a new utility. This post examines a range of partnership options and strategies to reduce costs for common drinking water and wastewater system supplies. Although membership and formality may vary between these types of partnerships, each relies on economies of scale to keep costs low by purchasing supplies in bulk.

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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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