Board & Staff Communication from EFCN & AWWA

On November 3, please join the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) as they take a closer look at effective communications strategies between water utility staff and their governing Boards.  There is no cost to participate but you must register in advance.

DATE:              Tuesday, November 3, 2015

TIME:               2:30-3:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/855365440417567746

Financially healthy water systems depend on good relationships between the staff who operate and manage the system and governing boards who approve rate changes. This webinar will examine strategies that staff can use to communicate the need for rate adjustments and other policy changes. The webinar will also discuss the results of a nation-wide survey of managers and elected officials on what factors lead to successful staff/board relations. While the survey focused on water systems operated by local government, the findings will be relevant to any water system with a governing board that approves rate changes.

Registration questions?  Laura Flagg lnflagg@syr.edu

Program questions?  Francine Stefan mfstefan@sog.unc.edu

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California Takes on Mandatory Water System Consolidation

In June, California’s Governor signed Senate Bill 88 into law.  The new law allows the State Water Resources Control Board (where the drinking water program is now housed) to “…require certain water systems that consistently fail to provide safe drinking water to consolidate with, or receive an extension of service from, another public water system. The consolidation can be physical or managerial.”

While the state has long encouraged voluntary consolidations or restructuring, the ongoing severe drought and resulting water emergencies experienced by both small and disadvantaged communities provides the impetus for this new direction.  The state has also said, “Consolidating public water systems and extending service from existing public water systems to communities and areas which currently rely on under-performing or failing small water systems, as well as private wells, reduces costs and improves reliability.  It does this by extending any development costs to a larger pool of ratepayers.”

The new process involves first providing technical assistance to analyze the problem and recommend a course of action for the distressed system.  Separate from enforcement-required actions, this process then creates a dialogue with the affected system and nearby public water systems.

Factors to be considered before any consolidation is undertaken include analyses of the capacity of the neighboring system; geographical separation; infrastructure improvement costs; costs and benefits to both systems; and access to financing for the resulting consolidated entity.  The two systems then have a six-month window to develop a consolidation plan.  Should that not happen, the State Board may order the two systems to consolidate.

Mandatory consolidation is dependent on several factors that must be addressed.  These include determinations that the system fails to provide safe drinking water; such consolidation is technically and economically feasible and provides the most efficient and cost-effective means for providing a safe water supply; and the capacity of the proposed interconnection is large enough to accommodate additional customers.  Outreach to affected customers must also occur before any consolidation can take place.

It will be interesting to follow the progress of this new California approach.  Some preliminary notices regarding consolidation have already been issued and the deliberative process has begun.

For more information about this California initiative, please visit the State Water Board’s website at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/programs/compliance/index.shtml.  This link also includes a Fact Sheet that summarizes the new requirements, the process and the state’s legal authorities to act.

EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center Launches New Website

EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center’s (WIRFC) mission is to provide objective financial advice to help communities make informed decisions on financing drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure projects. The Center does not fund water infrastructure projects.

Now, WIRFC has a revamped website that communities can reference for financing drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. Communities across the country are facing challenges with aging infrastructure. The need for water sector resiliency is becoming more and more of a focus for utilities across the nation. The Center has been actively working to identify best practices for innovative financing and provide technical assistance to communities to meet these water financing needs.  Take a look at the new website http://www2.epa.gov/waterfinancecenter

Current Center-based activities include:

Regional Finance Forums  These forums bring together communities with water infrastructure financing needs in an interactive peer-to-peer networking format. Attendees hear how local utilities have financed resilient water infrastructure projects and have the opportunity to meet key regional funding and technical assistance contacts.

Disadvantaged Community Support  The Center is kicking off work to build financial capacity in small and medium disadvantaged communities. Through increased communication with community decision makers and targeted technical assistance, the Center assists in identifying financing options to address community needs. Financing options include available funding sources and possible financing strategies.

Affordability Programs  The Center is exploring how household affordability considerations are addressed for specific segments of service areas that have difficulty paying water and sewer bills. The Center is developing a compendium on rate assistance and household affordability program best practices.

Innovative State Revolving Fund Financing  The Center is launching a State Revolving Fund (SRF) Peer-to-Peer Learning Program with the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities (CIFA) and engaging in other SRF outreach on state-of-the-art practices.

Partnerships  The Center is initiating a Water Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership and Public-Public Partnership Study and Local Government Training with the University of North Carolina Environmental Finance Center and West Coast Exchange. The Center is working with its partners to promote new tools such as EPA Region 3’s “Community-Based Public-Private Partnerships Guide for Local Governments” to explore alternative market-based tools for integrated green stormwater infrastructure.

Stormwater Financing Clearinghouse  The Center is focusing on stormwater financing by developing a clearinghouse of information to support communities to develop dedicated sources of revenue for stormwater programs.