Tag: regionalization (page 1 of 3)

Regionalization: Five Key Takeaways with Resources!

In the past few years, the EFC has been asked to evaluate the different financial impacts of regionalization, from simple shared services agreements to full-on consolidation. Additionally, we have been evaluating barriers to and opportunities for the creation of new and different governance models. We have identified some key takeaways and, in the process, developed quite a few useful resources that might be of interest to communities or state and local leaders interested in moving the needle toward more regionalization in the water sector. Continue reading

What Do Practitioners Think about Regionalization? Highlights from a Participatory Workshop on Regionalization

Many organizations and government agencies have studied and written about the potential benefits of regionalizing* the provision of water and wastewater services, but progress implementing this management tool has been relatively slow in many states including North Carolina.

*The terminology used to describe the transition from a more isolated independent service provision model to one that is more integrated is not always consistent or standardized. The term regionalization is used here to describe a range of different collaboration mechanisms that are commonly found in North Carolina and across the country.

Regionalized service provision can range from the creation of a new water utility by combining or merging two or more utilities; one utility absorbing or acquiring other utilities; or multiple utilities that choose to remain autonomous to some degree but share components of service provision such as water supply or water treatment. Many regions that appear to be ideal candidates for regionalization remain served by independent and often isolated utilities and when regionalization does occur, it is often a laborious process that can take years of planning and negotiation. While many regionalized systems thrive once they are created, others fail to fully meet their goals and may encounter a range of challenges including fiscal distress, recurring political and public disagreements, and the occasional lawsuit.

In order to learn more about practitioners’ regionalization experiences, expectations, and concerns, a group of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosted an interactive workshop at the UNC School of Government in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The event was designed to share emerging research and solicit practitioner views. Funding for the workshop was provided as part of a National Science Foundation project (award no. 1360442) funded by the Water Sustainability and Climate program. The workshop was attended by approximately 75 participants comprised of utility management staff, consultants that work with utilities, non-profit technical assistance providers, and state funding programs. Participants included staff from the state’s largest water utilities that provide service to hundreds of thousands of customers, all the way down to smaller rural utilities serving as few as 1,000 customers. Twenty-six separate utilities were represented. The workshop included research presentations, facilitated group discussions, audience polling, and small group exercises. Continue reading

What to Include in a Successful Interlocal Water and Wastewater Agreement

Co-authored by Liz Harvell

Across North Carolina, population shifts, flooding and drought, changes in industry and manufacturing, and the continuous move toward a reduction in overall water use has continued to create partnership opportunities for large and small water and wastewater systems alike. For large systems anticipating future growth, increased and more economically-savvy water supply may be accomplished through partnering with surrounding communities; smaller systems struggling with increasing costs and decreasing revenues may look towards partnerships with other systems to increase access to capital and reap the benefits of economies of scale. Systems that find themselves with excess capacity due to the loss of large industrial customers may view selling water or wastewater services to neighboring communities as the only realistic way of plugging revenue holes. And while general economic downturns and natural disasters continue to drive water and wastewater customers to relocate, making their systems no longer financially sustainable without some type of intervention, various partnership models are appearing more and more appealing.

While the number of models for creating water partnerships is as numerous as the number of reasons systems have for pursuing them, the most common tool for creating water partnerships in North Carolina is the interlocal agreement.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these agreements in place throughout the state, ranging from simple agreements intended to cover sale of water by Community A to Community B, to a complex series of individual agreements that when taken together can be used to create a consolidated regional utility model.

Earlier this summer, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (EFC) published Crafting Interlocal Water and Wastewater Agreements, a guide laying out important considerations for communities contemplating how a local agreement might benefit their community. Using the EFC experience of providing direct assistance to communities developing partnerships over the last 20 years, this guide identifies 21 key topics of governance, financial, and technical issues that are integral to the success of these agreements. Below are 10 key topics, but be sure to see the full guide complete, with examples: Continue reading

Funding Program Spotlight: North Carolina Regionalization Feasibility Grant

Calling all North Carolina water and wastewater systems who are considering merging/regionalization or other state funding agencies that want to promote regionalization. The North Carolina Merger/Regionalization Feasibility Grant offers water and wastewater systems an opportunity to conduct a study to evaluate the merging of two or more systems. This program emerged from Session Law 2015-241 to help water and wastewater utilities explore pathways that can improve their finances and overall operating efficiency. Continue reading

What We Can Learn from Consolidated Utilities

Post originally published by the US Water Alliance

Now is a time of growing uncertainty and change in the water sector. Meanwhile, there are tens of thousands of water utilities and authorities in the United States. Collaboration will be essential to securing our nation’s water future. As the adage goes, there’s strength in numbers.

Consolidating water utilities is one of many options communities may consider to pool resources, streamline decision-making, and increase efficiency. While complex, consolidation may be an appropriate consideration when the community value proposition outweighs costs. Leaders need access to more information about the financial effects of consolidating water utility service to assess their options.

To meet that need, the US Water Alliance and the UNC Environmental Finance Center are releasing a new report, Strengthening Utilities through Consolidation: The Financial Impact. This report synthesizes the existing body of evidence and presents eight case studies from communities who have consolidated utility service in different ways and contexts. Continue reading

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