UNC-EFC Tackles Financial Resilience

The Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill hosts a blog site that looks at water and wastewater needs, issues, concerns, and successes. One of their most recent posts looks at Local Government Financial Resilience and Preparation Before a Natural Disaster.

As the blog post notes, “…municipalities are becoming extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, making it necessary for local governments to become more resilient to catastrophes. Natural disaster resiliency often focuses on the built environment and hazard mitigation, but what about weathering the storm from a financial perspective?”  It goes on to suggest that communities should consider the following steps when evaluating the potential financial impacts of a natural disaster:  identify the probability and type of likely disasters, set a planning timeline, know about available funding sources, and set up a rainy day fund.

The blog post also contains numerous links to resources that can help a community understand and plan financially for a disaster.  One that stands out is Financial Planning for Natural Disasters: A Workbook for Local Governments and Regions.  The Workbook “…is designed to help local governments and regions understand their financial vulnerabilities to natural disasters, evaluate their financial capacity to cover the costs of those disasters, identify strategies to close the gap between financial vulnerability and capacity, and identify and address the spillover effects of neighboring local governments’ financial vulnerabilities to disasters.”

Advertisements

Addressing Affordability – AWWA Webinar

If you are an AWWA member, this event is free of charge.  Non-members must pay a $125 webinar registration fee.

DATE:              February 28

TIME:               1:00-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Here

This webinar is an introduction to several models and approaches utilities are currently using to assist low-income customers and the tools the utilities are using to effectively reach low-income communities.  These models are presented against the backdrop of “Navigating Legal Pathways to Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs.”  Implementing a customer assistance program (CAP) is a way to ameliorate the effect of high water bills on vulnerable and low-income customers, an important and complex issue in many communities. This webinar will give examples of different customer assistance programs currently utilized by utilities and an overview of rate-funded CAPs.

NEW Webinar – Demystifying Electric Bills and Water Rates

Our colleagues at EFCN are hosting another webinar for states and utilities.  Demystifying Electric Bills:  Common Energy Bill Elements and Making Sense of Rate Structures is next on their agenda.

DATE:              Thursday, March 8, 2018

TIME:               1:00-2:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Here

Providing drinking water and wastewater requires energy – and a lot of it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the cost of energy, as a percent of operating costs for drinking water system, can reach as high as 40 percent and is expected to increase 20 percent in the next 15 years. Though many operational costs may be fixed costs, energy costs represent the largest controllable cost of providing water services. Understanding your energy bill and knowing what you are paying for is important for every water utility.

WaterOperator.org – A Very Helpful Resource

Editor’s Note:  ASDWA invited WaterOperator.org to share some basic info about the program and highlight how it can be used as a resource for both state staff and small system operators.

As a primacy agency, you likely work with a limited and often-shrinking budget to carry out the programs delegated to you under the Safe Drinking Water Act. How you carry out your public health protection duties may look different from your neighboring states, but you share the problem of not having enough time and resources to support your systems the way you would like to.

U.S. EPA’s funding for training and technical assistance is designed to fill in some of those gaps and do so with a national perspective, creating opportunities to serve primacy agencies and water systems alike.  WaterOperator.org is a prime example.

Started in 2009 at the University of Illinois under the USEPA technical assistance centers program, WaterOperator.org provides easy access and relevant information to support you and your water systems. The completely free and unbiased website focuses on the challenges specific to small systems and houses a national training calendar and vast resource library, as well as delivers a twice-monthly newsletter.

Here are some of the key problems with using online information and the solutions WaterOperator.org provides:

  1. Helpful resources buried in confusing websites. Information is hard to find, sometimes even on your own agency’s website. Even if you know what you’re looking for, it can sometimes be a real challenge and time commitment to locate the information. WaterOperator.org provides value-added information for more than 18,000 free and publicly available resources, accessible via a nested search engine. The resources are constantly updated and leverage the best materials from over 800 state and federal agencies, technical assistance providers, trainers, and industry associations. If your website doesn’t have it, chances are someone else around the country does. And with WaterOperator.org, you can find it quickly and easily.

 

  1. Training events spread across multiple pages and sites. Within your jurisdiction, how many organizations are providing drinking water training to your systems? It is likely more than a dozen. WaterOperator.org indexes over 11,000 training events every year, all in one easy to search calendar, so you can feel confident sending operators, utility managers, and local decision-makers to it. WaterOperator.org’s staff has done the legwork to make it easy for you.

 

  1. Lack of time to keep abreast of industry news. Your day to day focuses on helping water systems protect public health. Travel to conferences and staying up to date on drinking water issues is not always easy or possible. WaterOperator.org’s staff are consistently searching for relevant information to support you. Their newsletter, which comes as an email twice each month, provides useful news you can use and share with the communities you serve. Every issue features a free upcoming webinar led by an industry organization, technical assistance provider, or compliance agency, as well as information on the newest resources available.

There’s no substitute for the face-to-face support you provide your water systems.  However, WaterOperator.org provides you access to information that saves time and effort by putting the best news, resources, and training events in one easy-to-access place.

WaterOperator.org is a collaboration between the Rural Community Assistance Partnership and the University of Illinois, funded by the USEPA. The best way to remember this essential tool is by signing up for the WaterOperator.org newsletter. If you and your staff would like more information or a demo of the site, contact WaterOperator.org at info@wateroperator.org.

EPA Hosts Water Workforce Webinar

Join EPA HQ and water operators in Idaho to learn more about the tools supporting water system operators in their role of protecting public health.  Register today for Supporting the Water Workforce: Tools for Water System Operators:  The Knowledge Retention Tool and Electronic Preventive Maintenance Logs

DATE:              Thursday, March 1, 2018

TIME:               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

Whether managing regular system maintenance, preparing for personnel transition, or entering into a partnership with a neighboring system, operators can benefit from incorporating these tools into their system’s management. Presenters from Idaho will share their first-hand experiences using the tools and highlight key features.  Please share this opportunity with your systems, assistance providers, and other state personnel with an interest in workforce issues.

DWSRF and Capacity Building in Action: Identifying and Prioritizing Systems for DWSRF Assistance

Continuing their ongoing joint webinar series, EPA’s DWSRF and Sustainable Systems Teams are hosting a webinar for states to discuss ways that you can identify and prioritize systems in need of DWSRF assistance.

 

DATE:              Wednesday, March 7

TIME;               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

Join us to learn how Delaware and Pennsylvania collaborated with EPA Region 3 in using EPA’s Enforcement Tracking Tool (ETT) to identify systems in non-compliance, and how assistance was provided to return the systems to compliance and protect public health.

 

Come Learn About Funding Basics

 

 

Join EPA and USDA to learn about Small System Funding opportunities through the DWSRF and through financing by the USDA Rural Utilities’ Service Water and Environmental Programs.

DATE:              February 27, 2018

TIME:               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click Here

EPA DWSRF:  Since its inception, more than 50% of the loans made under Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program have supported project needs of small systems service fewer than 3,300.  In addition to infrastructure funding, the DWSRF may also provide technical assistance to water systems and fund other system capacity building and operator certification activities.

USDA RUS WEP:  This program focuses exclusively on financing water and waste infrastructure needs of rural communities with 10,000 or fewer people.  WEP not only provides financial assistance for water and wastewater improvements, but also provides critical technical assistance to rural communities and their water and wastewater systems.

AWWA Offers New Affordability Webinar

Our colleagues at AWWA are offering a no cost webinar for AWWA Members (others – $125) on the subject of affordability and how utilities are striving to better support their low income customers.

DATE:  February 28, 2018

TIME:  1:00-2:30PM

REGISTERHere

Affordability of water service is at the forefront of many challenges water systems face today.  Implementing a customer assistance program (CA) can ameliorate the effect of high water bills on vulnerable and low income customers.

This webinar is an introduction to several models and approaches utilities are using to assist low-income customers and the tools the utilities are using to effectively reach low-income communities.  These models are presented against the backdrop of “Navigating Legal Pathways to Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs.” This new report along with additional information from US EPA and others means that the conversation has advanced considerably in the last few years and considerable new information is available.

Connecting Private Wells and Source Water Protection

Our colleagues at PrivateWellClass.org have developed the following article to help state drinking water programs think proactively about private wells, how to help their owners maintain them, and the connections between private wells and source water protection.

Improperly managed private water wells are a source of ground water contamination but are sometimes overlooked in the source water protection conversation. Activities typically focus on identifying and managing potential sources of contamination within a watershed, such as agricultural operations, leaking underground storage tanks, and storm water runoff. While these are undoubtedly significant and common, it’s important not to underestimate the impact that 15 million private wells have on source water quality. RCAP’s private well program, funded by EPA’s training and technical assistance grants, has elevated awareness of this issue within the public water supply community and worked to improve public health protection for the 47 million Americans who use private well water.

A majority of well owners don’t know how to care for their well, determine if their water is safe to drink, or protect groundwater from contamination. Many private well owners have never tested their well water quality. This lack of knowledge not only endangers the health of those who rely on private well water, but also increases the vulnerability of the 102 million Americans served by a public water system using groundwater. RCAP’s private well program uses a combination of online and in-person technical assistance, training, and education to boost knowledge and competency of the individual well owner as well as the thousands of dedicated environmental health, cooperative extension, and water well professionals that serve well owners day to day. With support from EPA over the last five years, RCAP has developed an extensive partner network that reaches all 50 states, tribal lands, and U.S. territories.

 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign coordinates the program with RCAP and their six regional affiliates. Other partners include the National Ground Water Association, the Water Systems Council, the National Environmental Health Association, and cooperative extension programs in Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. Efforts to date have fostered cooperation with state health departments, county/local health districts, drillers associations, state extension offices, real estate professionals, and laboratories, among others, that leverage state and local resources to provide direct, targeted support for well owners. There is still significant work to be done to reach the millions of well owners lacking the basic skills of well care. Here’s how state drinking water programs can help:

 

  1. Sign up as a private well partner. The U of I team delivers a monthly newsletter for the private well stakeholder community and last year held the first-ever national conference for the private well professional community.

 

  1. Request and distribute well owner brochures. The U of I team has developed a brochure that encourages private well owners to test their water and learn more about well care. Requests for professionally-printed copies of this tri-fold are accepted on an ongoing basis, but please submit before February 9 to be included in the first print run.

 

  1. Lead the collaborative effort in your state. State drinking water programs are in a unique position to leverage existing source water protection programs, make connections with state-level colleagues who regulate well construction, and coordinate with RCAP field staff involved in this effort. A state-wide workgroup can boost dialogue about private well issues and connect stakeholders to the wealth of resources developed under the RCAP program.

Take advantage of these opportunities to share helpful information with private well owners and to help your state’s source water protection program.

EFCN Hosts Two New Webinars

Our colleagues from EFCN’s Syracuse and Wichita State Universities are hosting two webinars this month that should be of interest to you.

Resiliency Planning 101

DATE:              February 13

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

REGISTER:      Click this link Register

This webinar will offer definitions of community and utility resiliency in the context of disaster preparedness, recovery, and proactive planning measures. Resiliency enables communities and utilities to remain economically and socially viable in the face of extreme weather or economic events.  This event is hosted by the Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center

What Challenges Do Different Sizes & Types of Systems Face?

DATE:              February 27

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

Register           Click this link Register

This webinar will address the challenges of delivering safe, potable water to communities of varying size and the differences and similarities of management challenges that both small and large systems face.  This event is hosted by the Wichita State University Environmental Finance Center.