Tag: North Carolina (Page 1 of 4)

A Closer Look at MS4 Audit Trends in North Carolina

Written by: Ryan Vulpis

In the state of North Carolina, many stormwater programs are required by the US EPA to maintain a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. This permit is designed to ensure that jurisdictions protect water quality within its jurisdiction by meeting six minimum control measures (MCM).

1. public education and outreach 2. public involvement and participation 3. illicit discharge detection and elimination 4. construction site stormwater runoff controls 5. post-construction stormwater management 6. pollution prevention and good housekeeping

In 2019, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) began auditing MS4 permit holders according to a 5-year audit schedule, intending to audit 20 percent of the State’s permit holders on an annual basis. NC DEQ plans to audit permittees within the state on a five-year cycle to ensure continued compliance. The three possible outcomes of an audit are a notice of compliance (NOC), notice of deficiency (NOD), or notice of violation (NOV) depending on if an infraction is found and the nature of the infraction(s) found. NODs and NOVs serve to alert the permit holders of infractions and request that the infractions be rectified immediately [1]. The EFC analyzed 29 audits completed by NC DEQ for trends in items of deficiency and non-compliance across stormwater programs. While two of the audited communities received notices of compliance, two communities received notices of deficiency and 25 communities received notices of violation. Continue reading

COVID-19 and North Carolina Utilities: Impact Assessment of the Coronavirus Pandemic on North Carolina Water and Wastewater Utilities

August has been a key transition month for local government utilities in North Carolina as EO 124/142 (which prohibited disconnections due to non-payment for residential utility accounts) has expired, payment plans are required to be in place, and Governor Cooper just announced $175 million in relief money, including $122 million for assistance in paying rent and utility bills.

How are water and wastewater utilities across the state faring under COVID-19 conditions? We’ve been keeping track here at the EFC and though the circumstances are constantly changing, we’ve been able to assess some of the impacts of COVID-19 on utilities during the last five months.

We have just released a report funded by Division of Water Infrastructure in the Department of Environmental Quality, outlining results from a poll, analysis of the EO 124/142 data that utilities reported to the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) for the full April through July period that covered the statewide moratorium, stories of individual utilities (blog post coming soon), and an overview of our financial resiliency tool. Continue reading

What’s the Use? Assessing Trends in North Carolina’s Residential Water Use

After droughts and in light of future concerns over water resources, the topic of conservation has risen in importance. While regional differences in supply concerns exist across the United States and even on a smaller scale, within states, there have been consistent pushes on a federal-level to move towards more efficient use without customer behavior change. Most research suggests that behavior change is “hard,” but by addressing use at the fixture, consumers can continue flushing and showering just as much and use less water.

In addition to this push towards more efficient appliances, the rise in the water and wastewater rates across the US and more specifically, in North Carolina, have put additional incentive on users to conserve, as they are continually sent a strong pricing signal. Weather and household size can also have profound impacts on water use, but the regionality of weather and general trend towards population growth across the country make it harder to assess the impact on total use. Despite all of the factors that impact total demand, federal and state leaders remain interested in how demand is changing over time and what that means for communities strapped for supply and communities struggling to bring in sufficient revenues to cover rising expenses.  Continue reading

A New Fee: Why Develop a Stormwater Utility, Where does the Money Go?

Leigh DeForest is a graduate fellow in the 2019 Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) program. As a part of the LEAF Fellowship, Leigh spent the summer of 2019 working at Triangle J Council of Governments. While at Triangle J she researched the ancillary benefits of stormwater utilities and green stormwater infrastructure as well as contributing to the Jordan Lake One Water initiative.

When communities consider establishing a potential new stormwater fee, residents may inquire about why they are being charged and where their money is going. Forming a stormwater utility fee creates a dedicated revenue source that can be used to support long-term planning for the control of urban stormwater runoff that benefits both the community’s functionality and the surrounding environment. Both permitted and non-permitted municipalities can benefit from instituting a stormwater utility. Continue reading

Are Utilities that Need to Raise Rates Actually Raising Rates?

What happens if a water utility collects less in revenues than it pays in expenditures in one year? It will raise some alarms, but some utilities might be able to weather that shortfall by dipping into their reserves and bounce back the following year. But what happens if a water utility collects less in revenues than it pays in expenditures in three consecutive years? That is probably a strong indication that the rates it is charging its customers are too low. Assuming that expenses cannot be significantly reduced, a rate increase is almost certainly necessary. So are utilities in this position raising rates the following year, or are there obstacles that may be chronically preventing the adoption of rate increases? In this post, I analyze ten years of financial and rates data from hundreds of North Carolina utilities to explore this question.

Continue reading

« Older posts