Tag: Water Research Foundation (Page 1 of 5)

Even Total Water Demand is on the Decline at Many Utilities

Increasing Accounts, Declining Demands

Almost two years ago, we wrote a blog post revealing that average residential water use is declining in the State of North Carolina. Similar trends have also been identified in other states and across the country, driven by several factors. It turns out; it’s not just average residential water use that is declining. Despite growing service populations, many utilities have noticed that total demand is falling.

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$napshot: Debt Service as Percent of Total Operating Revenues


Debt Service as Percent of Total Operating Revenues in FY2012

Last Thursday, while we were presenting one of two Water Research Foundation webinars (view recordings of the webcasts for free) on the financial strategies that water utilities have or can employ to improve revenue resiliency against changing financial trends, a participant on the webinar asked if we have any benchmarks on debt service as a percent of operating revenues. The graph above shows how debt service in FY2012 compared to the total operating revenues of 645 debt-paying water/wastewater utilities across the U.S. from Moody’s rating agency. 58% of the debt-paying utilities spent between 10% and 30% of their total operating revenues on debt service in FY2012. Only 11% of the utilities spent more than 40% of their revenues on debt service in that year. There does not seem to be a major distinction between small and large utilities in terms of the proportion of revenue spent on debt service. In our recently published WRF report, Defining A Resilient Business Model for Water Utilities, we showed that this proportion of debt service to operating revenues remained relatively steady between FY2003 and FY2012, despite declining water use. Spending a quarter of annual operating revenues on debt service requires careful financial planning on behalf of the utility since debt service is a fixed cost that must be paid regardless of fluctuating water sales and revenues. These findings are part of the research for Water Research Foundation project #4366.

A $napshot is a graphic revealing an interesting environmental finance finding accompanied by a short post. This $napshot was created by Shadi Eskaf.

$napshot: Utility Rate Increases versus Revenue Increases

A $napshot is a graphic revealing an interesting environmental finance finding accompanied by a short post. This $napshot was created by Shadi Eskaf.

Changes to Rates and Revenues among 566 Utilities

Changes to Rates and Revenues among 566 Utilities

While revenues usually rise as water and wastewater rates increase, revenues generally rise slower than rates. The graphs show how 566 utilities in three states changed rates over a three or four year period, and the subsequent change to annual revenues in the same time period. Four observations can be made. Continue reading

Water Rate Increases Among 1,961 Utilities in Six States in the Last Decade

Shadi Eskaf is a Senior Project Director for the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Rising rates image

Our research shows that water rates have been rising faster than CPI inflation in the past few years for hundreds of utilities, particularly after the financial crisis. In some states, however, there were also many utilities whose rates failed to keep pace with inflation.

From a rate-setting perspective, utilities that raised rates more frequently had a double advantage over utilities that raised rates only occasionally or rarely. First: the average annual rate increase was lower than the one-time rate increases of utilities that occasionally raised rates, reducing the rate shock that customers experienced when rates rose. Second: despite the lower average rate increases, utilities that raised rates more frequently accumulated, on average, a larger total increase in rates in a five-year period than utilities that raised rates only occasionally.

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Trends in the Water Industry and Common Strategies to Mitigate and Master an Uncertain Future (Hint: You can’t do it alone!)

Mary Tiger is the Chief Operating Officer of the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina.

A few months ago a group of over 20 utility managers from some of the largest water utilities in the country convened in Denver, Colorado to discuss strategies that are working (and not working) to mitigate and master issues facing their individual utilities. Beyond having size in common, it was a diverse group, representing a spectrum of ownership and service models, as well as geographical and service characteristics.  As such, the impact of common trends in the industry (as projected in the Water Research Foundation report “Forecasting the Future: Progress, Change, and Predictions for the Water Sector”) varied greatly between them.   Continue reading

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