The 2019 North Carolina Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard was deployed just over a month ago, marking another year in a long partnership between the Environmental Finance Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, the North Carolina League of Municipalities, and the North Carolina Division of Water Infrastructure. One of the benefits of such a long and successful partnership is the wealth of historic rates data.
The Rates Dashboard provides an up-to-date look at rates and financial sustainability indicators for utilities around the state, but it is merely a snapshot. By looking at trends in rates and demographic factors, such as income, the numbers and changes start to tell a story. A trends analysis was produced for a recent course on Water and Wastewater Finance at the UNC School of Government, looking at rates from 2009-2018, EPA SDWIS Service Population data from 2009-2018, and income, from US Census American Community Surveys, from 2007-2017. The figures below are adapted from that analysis. The analysis is restricted to utilities that have participated across all years and availability of data. By looking at the overall trend rather than the specific values, the resulting patterns can provide considerations for utilities across the state. Continue reading
The year 2010 marked the start of an unusual period in the water sector. For five years running, total capital outlays by local governments in the United States on water and wastewater infrastructure declined year after year. This period coincides with the Great Recession and towards the end of spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Yet infrastructure continued to age, and construction costs continued to rise at about 2.6 percent per year during that period. Have we finally come across a sign that capital expenditures on water and wastewater infrastructure may be growing again?
According to data collected and published by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), federal, state and local governments in the United States spent more than $2.2 trillion in the last 59 years on operations, maintenance and capital infrastructure of water and wastewater utilities. That equates to more than $4,131,000,000,000 in 2014 dollars, adjusting for inflation of infrastructure-specific costs. Following our earlier blog post demonstrating that federal spending on water and wastewater utilities decreased since the 1980s, we analyzed the data and identified 4 more trends in how government spending on utilities changed between 1956 and 2014.
Last week, I posted a graph of my household water use for the past few years and challenged our readers to identify as many interesting characteristics about my household as they can. Often, the only data a water utility has on their customers are what they have in their billing records. Other household characteristics, such as size of household, income, age, house and lot size and features, water use behavior and preferences, etc., are very difficult to obtain for each customer. However, as demonstrated by my own personal example, mining the billing data alone can reveal much about each household. Here is what my water use history reveals about my household, and the application of this exercise in water resources and utility finance management.
Are you up for a challenge? I have disclosed in this graph my own household’s water use between June 2006 and December 2014, as reported on my water bills. Without any more information about my household’s characteristics (except that it is residential, on a single 5/8″ meter, and using drinking water and wastewater service from one utility), this is the extent of knowledge that my utility has about my household. Yet, my water use data – which are present in the utility’s billing records – reveal much about my household. My challenge to you is to look at this graph and identify as many interesting characteristics about my household as you can. Think about it, too, from the perspective of how the utility should interact with my household. Here are a few questions to consider to get you started: