Author: Elizabeth Harvell (Page 1 of 4)

SOG Environmental Finance Ctr

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

20 Students for 20 Years: Mary Tiger

A Series Celebrating 20 Years of Environmental Finance

In 2019, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill celebrates its 20th anniversary. This milestone recognizes 20 years of excellence and even more dynamic, talented people. Throughout 2019, the EFC will publish 20 stories of exceptional student employees, projects, and impacts resulting in the inspiration that embodies who we are today and compels us to continue going further. Stories will be published biweekly at

Click here to sign up and receive each new story in your inbox.

The first feature in our series: Mary Tiger, UNC MPA ’09 alumnus and Sustainability Manager at the Orange Water and Sewer Authority:

Mary Tiger serves as the Sustainability Manager at the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA). She is a 2009 graduate of the UNC Master of Public Administration program, and worked as an EFC research assistant during her time as an MPA student from 2007 to 2009. Before starting the MPA program, Mary worked as a utility conservation coordinator for a Colorado water, wastewater, and power utility.

The Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was one of the biggest attractants to the UNC Master of Public Administration program for ’09 MPA alumnus Mary Tiger.

“The EFC was one of the reasons I came to UNC for my graduate program,” Mary said. “The UNC MPA program at that time didn’t have much of a specific focus on the environment, so being an EFC research assistant was an opportunity that really drove my decision to come to UNC.” Continue reading

How Important was Water Pricing in Achieving Conservation Goals During the California Drought?

California’s severe drought and statewide conservation mandate provided an opportunity to analyze the effects of pricing strategies as a tool to curb water use. In 2015, the State Water Resources Control Board was charged with implementing a reduction of 25 percent on the state’s local water supply agencies. One of the strategies the Board suggested to local agencies was to look at ways rate structures could provide a financial incentive, also known as a price signal, to customers to conserve water.

Did water agencies with higher price signals achieve greater water savings than others? In some cases, yes. But not always.

A team from the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed data on hundreds of California water agencies’ water pricing, residential water use, and production data from the mandatory conservation period from June 2015 to May 2016, resulting in three key takeaways for one major conclusion: no single pricing strategy works for every agency in reducing water use. Continue reading

Reclaiming Our Water: A Partnership

How the Use of Reclaimed Water Can Help Conserve Millions of Gallons of Water Every Year.

Post by Ryan Rinehart

Ryan is a fellow in the 2018 Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) program. As part of this fellowship, Ryan spent summer 2018 assisting UNC Energy Services in evaluating irrigation supply options to expand the reclaimed water mains at UNC-Chapel Hill to help reduce the school’s potable water intake and reduce expenditure on utility services.

It’s no news to readers of the Environmental Finance Blog that clean water is a precious, finite resource. During the years 2001-2002 and 2007-2008, North Carolina experienced the worst droughts ever recorded in state history.  After the severe drought in 2001-2002, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill partnered with the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) to evaluate the feasibility of using reclaimed water at UNC-Chapel Hill, resulting in a partnership to build a reclaimed water system.

The reclaimed water treatment facility is located at the OWASA wastewater treatment plant, and a pipeline to campus allows the University to reduce the use of potable water for non-potable uses, and leave more potable water for human consumption. But what  is reclaimed water and how can it benefit a community? Continue reading

The Internet of Things and the Water World

Post Authored by Elizabeth Kendrick

Our previous post brought you Dr. Christine Boyle, founder and CEO of Valor Water Analytics (Valor), which works with utilities worldwide to introduce technologies that drive efficiency and set a new bar for how utilities understand and utilize data. The analytics company has built a suite of software aiming to bring big data solutions to water utilities in order to improve their financial and water resource sustainability. Valor’s “Hidden Revenue Locator” product is widely recognized as a best-in-class technology for automated loss detection. Valor and its tools provide a fantastic example of how data can be transformed into useful information through the Internet of Things. Continue reading

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