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
How the Use of Reclaimed Water Can Help Conserve Millions of Gallons of Water Every Year.
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
At our workshops and through our discussions with water systems during technical assistance work, many water systems, in particular small systems, ask what seems like a simple question: “Are our rates right?”
I suspect our initial answer is somewhat unsatisfying: “It depends.”
Even when rates are sufficient to generate the revenues needed for the utility, whether or not rates are “right” depends on what a particular water system hopes to accomplish with its rate structure. Hopefully, that is more than simply having the lowest rates of any of its neighboring systems. We encourage water systems to articulate a broad range of rate-setting objectives and to rank them from most to least important.
by Jacob Mouw
This post was revised on September 25, 2014 to address nuances of water pricing and differences in conservation rates.
Drinking water, despite being a necessity, is relatively cheap in regards to its importance. At around $0.005 per gallon from the tap, it is astoundingly cheaper than, say, printer ink, which ranges from $13 to $75 per ounce, and yet is vastly more important. Despite this low price, water is a commodity, particularly in dry, drought-prone regions such as the southwestern United States. Utilities can deal with low water supplies by discouraging higher water use among customers through pricing. Having a “conservation rate” entails charging high enough prices for larger volumes of water use, therefore discouraging discretionary, non-essential use and promoting conservation. In the Environmental Finance Center’s recent Water and Wastewater Rates and Rate Structures Survey in the State of Arizona, thanks to funding from the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona, we analyzed 355 water rate structures from 324 utilities. Continue reading