Category: General Information (page 1 of 14)

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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Four Steps of Effective Project Management

As the Assistant Program Manager at the UNC Environmental Finance Center (EFC), I work ‘behind the scenes’ on internal projects related to the every day management of our center. In my role facilitating organizational development at the EFC, I recently spent time researching project management best practices. At the EFC, we help communities design, implement, and finance sustainable environmental projects and programs, and not surprisingly, strong project management structure is often a critical component of any sustainable program. While some of this research was specific to the EFC, many of the lessons I discovered are broadly applicable, whether you’re working for a small water utility or a statewide initiative.  Through this post, I would like to share four easy steps to streamlined project management for any size project.

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Finding Money in the Water System Budget: Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC)

The way that drinking water and wastewater systems pay for energy improvements in the United States is changing – including for small drinking water systems (serving 10,000 or fewer people). As has often been mentioned on the EFC’s blog, the days of huge federal grants for construction of water and wastewater systems are long past. Since an energy improvement is a kind of capital improvement, there are many ways to pay for such projects: cash savings (e.g. through a utility’s capital improvement fund); loans (state revolving fund loans or bank loans); issuing bonds (if you are a local government entity); internal energy revolving funds; and more. But coming up with the initial capital through one of the aforementioned means can be challenging.

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Springing Forward from a Great 2014 at the EFC

Springtime in North Carolina normally showcases two things I love: the environment and teamwork.

Even if your work doesn’t involve environmental protection, it’s hard not to think about environment this time of year with trees budding out in a green wave, flowers blooming everywhere, and rivers churning with winter and spring rains. At the same time, everyone is talking about teams. It’s NCAA basketball tournament time, and it’s hard to walk down an office corridor or go into a restaurant without someone talking about teams and team strategy.

I couldn’t help thinking about these two subjects as I helped write our annual report this year, because they are the very same subjects that dominate our work. Obviously we are focused on the environment – it’s in our name, and the drive to protect and preserve the environment is the constant force that runs through our diverse portfolio of projects.

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