This is the second post in a three-part blog series on data management. This post will focus on the data handling processes involved in the development of the EFC’s Revenueshed tool.
As mentioned in the first part of this blog series If you build the data platform, will they come?, EFC’s design team regularly asks the following three questions when creating a new tool.
(1) Who are the users?
(2) What is the project’s purpose?
(3) What data exists to support this purpose?
Co-author Neil Sullivan is a Rates Specialist at the Environmental Finance Center.
Since 2007, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been conducting water and wastewater rate surveys in Georgia. With support from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and other organizations, the EFC at UNC has collected a decade worth of rates data. Each year this data allows the us to create water and wastewater Rates Dashboards. This free tool helps utility staff analyze and weigh their current rates against different indicators to better inform future rate settings. Additionally, this data reveals important trends in how Georgia utilities manage their finances. Read on to see how the landscape of water and wastewater rates has transformed in the past decade:
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
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
Water conservation is critical to meeting the future water needs of Texas. Many programs may be implemented to reduce water use, and a number of utilities across the State are making strong efforts to advance water conservation. One of the most effective methods to driving conservation is water pricing. Used effectively, price can provide a signal to users regarding the value and supply of water so they can adjust their demand accordingly. Unfortunately, rates are also the primary revenue mechanism for utilities that are also tasked with protecting public health and the environment. This can create a disincentive to increase conservation. Fixing this conflict requires rethinking the current business model.