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.
My colleague Stacey Isaac Berahzer, a senior project director here at the Environmental Finance Center, made her podcast debut this week on The Water Values Podcast, a series specifically focused on drinking water finance and management. The Water Values is one of several podcast series that feature content on the drinking water sector.
For those who don’t know, a podcast is an audio file available for download to your computer or mobile device. Podcasts typically take the form of interviews or stories, and it is a relatively new way to disseminate information about important drinking water topics. Episodes can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour, and they are a good format to explore issues in greater depth.
Some podcast series focus exclusively on drinking water topics, whilst others are focused more broadly on government, environment, or finance topics, and occasionally feature episodes on drinking water.
The following is a collection of 12 informative podcast episodes related to drinking water finance and management, ordered by air date: Continue reading
When setting rates, most water and wastewater utilities are concerned (at least to some extent) about whether their customers can afford the resulting bills. Many utilities are also wondering how they can assist the poorest segments of their customer base with the cost of water/wastewater service. However, a frustrating problem is that a lot of low income people live in multifamily housing, such as apartments, and do not actually have an account with the water utility. Even though they don’t receive a bill directly, these tenants are paying for the water/wastewater service indirectly via their rent. So some utility managers have been grappling with effective ways to provide assistance to these water users. Different theories involving vouchers etc. have been espoused, but one utility seems to have actually solved the problem.
It’s college football season again, and thoughts among many in the South, and elsewhere, turn to tailgating and touchdowns, hot dogs and sodas, field goals and fun. (Here in Chapel Hill, we like to remember alumnus Andy Griffith’s famous 1953 comical monologue about football, “What It Was, Was Football.”) Meanwhile, those of us at the UNC Environmental Finance Center (EFC) have completed our first-ever Alabama Residential Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard, which, in fact, ties in with – you guessed it – football! (As well as tying in with the affordability of water and sewer bills by customers in Alabama, of course.) Continue reading
David R. Tucker is a Project Director at the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Key: 1. Water Main; 2. Water Tap; 3. Water Meter; 4. Private Plumbing (water line); 5. Private Plumbing (wastewater line); 6. Wastewater Main.
Source: City of Fort Worth, Texas
My work at the UNC Environmental Finance Center frequently centers around the study, benchmarking, and understanding of rates, especially residential rates: charges per unit across time (such as dollars per kilowatt hour for kWh of electricity used in a month; or dollars per gallon, for thousands of gallons of drinking water used in a quarter; and so on). You can see the results of our work on rates by yours truly and my colleagues in sophisticated tools that we have developed, such as our drinking water and wastewater rates dashboards, our stormwater rates dashboards, and our electric rates dashboards, among many other tools and reports that the EFC has created. Continue reading