The North Carolina Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard was updated with 2021 data and the 2021 North Carolina Water and Wastewater Rates Report was published. Check them out today and join us for our June 15 webinar.
We are thankful for another year of partnership with the North Carolina League of Municipalities and for the on-going funding support from the North Carolina Division of Water Infrastructure.
The 2021 North Carolina Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard was deployed in February 2021. The Dashboard is up to date for rates as of January 1, 2021. The Rates Dashboard provides an up-to-date look at rates and financial sustainability indicators for utilities around the state.
The 1997 EPA Financial Capability Assessment (FCA) consisted of a two-part assessment to determine a municipality’s financial capability to implement projects to comply with Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements. The EPA has used the 1997 FCA to negotiate implementation schedules for both combined sewer overflow and sanitary sewer overflow controls. The first part of this assessment is the Residential Indicator (RI), which is the cost per household of CWA compliance divided by the median household income. The second part is the Financial Capability Indicator, which evaluates the municipality’s fiscal health and its demographics relative to national norms.
In part due to the simplicity of the Residential Indicator, the water and wastewater community has used a similar metric known as median affordability or % median household income (MHI) to assess affordability at the local level. Median affordability is the annual water and wastewater bill at a set consumption volume divided by the MHI of the service area. State revolving funds also have used median affordability to determine which municipalities are eligible for principal forgiveness on loans. The difference between the RI and median affordability is that median affordability uses the current cost to the customer and the RI uses the total cost to implement CSO or SSO controls to comply with Clean Water Act requirements. Because both the RI and the median affordability rely on MHI to determine affordability, they have both received criticism over the years, including from the EFC (here, here, here).
Guest Post By Nicholas Smith of Raftelis
A new fiscal year typically means new water and wastewater rates for utilities in Florida. Florida utilities have long relied upon small and predictable annual rate increases to ensure their rates are sufficient to cover the cost to serve their customers. In setting rates, Florida utilities have always depended on careful financial analysis. Although COVID-19 has complicated this norm — Florida utilities can still proceed with rate changes, but it is best to proceed with some enhanced strategy. With universally high unemployment rates and utility governing bodies more concerned about affordability than ever, research by Raftelis shows utilities are moving ahead with rate increases, but they are looking for more data than before to support their decisions.
The Environmental Finance Center has completed the 2020 North Carolina Stormwater Fee Survey. The survey includes 93 stormwater fee structures effective July 1, 2019. There are 6 utilities in this year’s survey that were not in last year’s survey. Additionally, there is one fee structure that is not included this year as the city of New Bern dissolved their stormwater fee after the 2019 fiscal year.
The Residential Stormwater Utility Fee Dashboard has been updated! Use the comparison groups on the left side of the Dashboard to compare stormwater fees by region, by NPDES MS4 permit designation, and by similar population. You can also download our tables of stormwater fees and fee structures to analyze stormwater fees for residential, non-residential, and multifamily customers. Continue reading
On August 29, the EFC lead a webinar on finance and governance models for watershed management as part of the Environmental Finance Network Smart Management for Small Water Systems program. The webinar focused on source water protection as an effective way to protect public health and avoid the costs associated with contaminated drinking water. The webinar sought to answer three separate questions:
- What is watershed management?
- How do small water systems (under EPA guidelines, those serving under 10,000 people) benefit from watershed management?
- How can small systems participate in watershed management?
The answers to the first two questions are somewhat straight forward; watershed management is any strategy or set of strategies that positively influences land characteristics in a drainage area, and small systems benefit by avoiding costs; both monetary and abstract.
However, the answer to the third question is a bit more difficult. Small systems face unique challenges with respect to watershed management for the protection of drinking water; they often rely on purchased water, they have limited technical and financial resources, and they have limited ability to impact land use in the entirety of their water supply watershed. Watershed boundaries often cross jurisdictional boundaries, so the land use decision made by a neighboring government often heavily impacts the quality of the small system’s source water. This makes partnership extremely important. Small systems can partner with neighboring jurisdictions, enter into a shared source partnership, or collaborate with nonprofit conservation groups in order to have a greater impact on the quality of their source water. Continue reading