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Islanding Puerto Rico

83 percent of Puerto Ricans remain without power three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island. The goal is for 25 percent of customers to regain power by the end of October, but it could be months before the territory’s grid is fully operational again. Meanwhile, 36 percent of the island still does not have water service. Since energy is required to treat and deliver water, presumably the lack of power is standing in the way of getting some of those water systems back online. (Water, of course, is also needed to generate energy, but that’s a topic for another time.) Continue reading

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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The Gray Area in Funding Affordability Programs

Why Water or Wastewater Utilities in Many States May Be Apprehensive to Fund Affordability Programs with Rate Revenue

One of the reports recently completed at the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel provides an analysis of the legal and policy environment surrounding rate-setting for water and wastewater utilities in all fifty states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The report, Navigating Legal Pathways to Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs, attempts to answer the question of whether, state by state, water and wastewater utilities can implement assistance programs for low-income customers, where these programs are funded with rate revenue. However, after researching and drafting the summaries for each state, the black and white answers we were looking for, have turned out to be in fact, mostly gray. That is, in most states, there is not a clearly defined path that water and wastewater utilities can follow to legally fund affordability programs with rate revenue. Thus, despite the importance of ensuring affordable water for all, there are many utilities which don’t have these types of cross-subsidized affordability programs, perhaps, in part, due to this legal uncertainty. So why are some states black and white, while others remain gray?

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Is Percent MHI the Best Way to Measure Affordability?

Most national analyses of affordability utilize a small sample of utilities or make generalized assumptions about expenditures. With more than 3,000 utilities in our pricing database, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is uniquely positioned to conduct detailed analyses of affordability using multiple metrics. Historically, the most common method of presenting affordability metrics for a specific water utility is to calculate the percent of the median household income of a community that goes to pay for water and/or wastewater services on an annual basis. This metric, often presented in shorthand as percent MHI, Continue reading

Tips and Takeaways: Applying for NC Water and Wastewater Funding Programs

Attention all North Carolinian water and wastewater systems: the State Water Infrastructure Authority announced that $168.5 million in water and wastewater funding will be available this upcoming fall.

In response to this announcement, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality: Division of Water Infrastructure held application-training workshops across the state of North Carolina in August. Here are some tips and takeaways learned from the training.

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