Tag: trends (page 1 of 2)

A Return to Growing Capital Outlays on Water and Wastewater Infrastructure?

The year 2010 marked the start of an unusual period in the water sector. For five years running, total capital outlays by local governments in the United States on water and wastewater infrastructure declined year after year. This period coincides with the Great Recession and towards the end of spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Yet infrastructure continued to age, and construction costs continued to rise at about 2.6 percent per year during that period. Have we finally come across a sign that capital expenditures on water and wastewater infrastructure may be growing again?

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Four Trends in Government Spending on Water and Wastewater Utilities Since 1956

According to data collected and published by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), federal, state and local governments in the United States spent more than $2.2 trillion in the last 59 years on operations, maintenance and capital infrastructure of water and wastewater utilities. That equates to more than $4,131,000,000,000 in 2014 dollars, adjusting for inflation of infrastructure-specific costs. Following our earlier blog post demonstrating that federal spending on water and wastewater utilities decreased since the 1980s, we analyzed the data and identified 4 more trends in how government spending on utilities changed between 1956 and 2014.

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Solving the Puzzle: Understanding Customers through their Water Use History

Last week, I posted a graph of my household water use for the past few years and challenged our readers to identify as many interesting characteristics about my household as they can. Often, the only data a water utility has on their customers are what they have in their billing records. Other household characteristics, such as size of household, income, age, house and lot size and features, water use behavior and preferences, etc., are very difficult to obtain for each customer. However, as demonstrated by my own personal example, mining the billing data alone can reveal much about each household. Here is what my water use history reveals about my household, and the application of this exercise in water resources and utility finance management.

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What Can You Tell About My Household Based on Our Water Use History?

Are you up for a challenge? I have disclosed in this graph my own household’s water use between June 2006 and December 2014, as reported on my water bills. Without any more information about my household’s characteristics (except that it is residential, on a single 5/8″ meter, and using drinking water and wastewater service from one utility), this is the extent of knowledge that my utility has about my household. Yet, my water use data – which are present in the utility’s billing records – reveal much about my household. My challenge to you is to look at this graph and identify as many  interesting characteristics about my household as you can. Think about it, too, from the perspective of how the utility should interact with my household. Here are a few questions to consider to get you started:

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Water Rate Increases Among 1,961 Utilities in Six States in the Last Decade

Shadi Eskaf is a Senior Project Director for the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Rising rates image

Our research shows that water rates have been rising faster than CPI inflation in the past few years for hundreds of utilities, particularly after the financial crisis. In some states, however, there were also many utilities whose rates failed to keep pace with inflation.

From a rate-setting perspective, utilities that raised rates more frequently had a double advantage over utilities that raised rates only occasionally or rarely. First: the average annual rate increase was lower than the one-time rate increases of utilities that occasionally raised rates, reducing the rate shock that customers experienced when rates rose. Second: despite the lower average rate increases, utilities that raised rates more frequently accumulated, on average, a larger total increase in rates in a five-year period than utilities that raised rates only occasionally.

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