UNC’s Environmental Finance Center Hosts Webinar on Private Utilities

 

 

 

 

The University of North Carolina’s EFC is hosting a webinar on Private Water and Sewer Companies – Understanding What Their Role May Be with Your System

DATE:              Wednesday, August 9

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

Register:          Register Here

There is a lot of talk about private investors helping with infrastructure investment needs. You may be wondering why they may be interested in your system and if you should be interested in them.

If you are trying to understand more about private water and sewer companies, you probably have many questions. For example:

  • Who are they and how does a private system work?
  • What is your role?
  • What can and can’t they do for you?
  • What about a partnership?

Attendees will have the unique opportunity to ask any and all questions about partnering with private water companies.

 

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EPA Webinar Series to Focus on Partnerships

EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) hosts a monthly webinar to focus on small system issues.  This month, ORD has selected Water System Partnerships.

DATE:              Tuesday, May 30

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

REGISTER:      https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8508858086518235395

Join Ellen Tarquinio (EPA OGWDW) and Chad Fisher (CalEPA) as they work through some of the small system challenges that may be resolved through a variety of partnership opportunitiess.  Ellen will provide an introduction to the various types of water system partnerships and how these can benefit small water systems.  Chad will focus on small water system challenges, the advantages of consolidation, the California process and will describe two consolidation case studies.

EPA Sustainable Systems Team Shares Tabletop Exercise

EPA’s Sustainable Systems Team has developed a Tabletop Exercise and Facilitators Guide that states and assistance providers may want to use on their own.  The Sustainable Systems Team has worked through this Exercise a couple of times at National and Regional workshops and the response has been very positive.

The Exercise assigns roles for a variety of state programs and works through a project list that needs input from each of the respective roleplayers.  Projects are prioritized and funding, compliance, and/or assistance decisions are made based on that input.  As noted in the provided materials, the purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate that a better understanding of other state roles, increased communication, and collaboration among different roles, will result in better, more holistic, PWS assistance.  Here’s the link to the Exercise and Facilitator’s Guide:  https://www.epa.gov/dwcapacity/table-top-exercise-collaborating-across-state-drinking-water-programs-support-sustainable

Partnership Discussions

During the first part of March, EPA’s Sustainable Systems Team hosted a webinar to look at Water System Partnerships.  This event was part of the ongoing Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Capacity Building in Action webinar series.

Ellen Tarquinio (EPA SST) set the stage and provided background on the partnerships concept and what the range of partnerships can look like.  Two states then provided insights into how their capacity development programs supported a range of partnership opportunities.  Thanks to both Karen Torres of New Mexico and Arlene Wyatt of Washington for sharing their approaches!  For those of you who could not participate in the event, ASDWA has included the powerpoint presentations at the link below.

EPA_Presentation_Partnerships

Water System Partnerships Webinar

If you haven’t already signed up, don’t miss the upcoming webinar on Water System Partnerships.  Brought to you by the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Capacity Building in Action Team, this is the latest in the ongoing series of webinars to highlight ways in which DWSRF set-asides and infrastructure project assistance can be used to build capacity at drinking water systems.

DATE:              March 7, 2017

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

REGISTER:      http://login.icohere.com/registration/register.cfm?reg=3500&evt=030717

The purpose of this webinar is to highlight ways that states are utilizing DWSRF funds to assist water systems in forming partnerships.

Two New Webinars from EFCN

Mark your calendars now for two new small system focused webinars from our colleagues at the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN) as part of their training and assistance grant from EPA.

Ask the Expert – Advice on Water System Partnerships

 DATE:              January 12, 2017

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

REGISTER:      https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4679240390727658755

This event explores ways that water systems can partner or collaborate to enhance their performance and capabilities.  The webinar also looks at many of the ‘where do I start and what should I avoid and how do I retain control of my system’ type questions that frequently arise in partnership discussions.  This online forum offers an opportunity for you to ask any and all questions related to water system partnerships and regionalization options.

Achieving Revenue Stability through Your Water Rate Structure

 DATE:              January 19, 2017

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

REGISTER:      https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/132920338571523331

This webinar will explain how demand changes affect revenues and how water utilities can improve their revenue stability by modifying their rate structure design.  The vast majority of a water utility’s revenues is directly dependent on the volume of water sold to customers.  Water demand fluctuates from year to year, and numerous studies have shown that average residential demands are decreasing, placing much of a utility’s revenue at risk.

 

EFC Network Hosts New Small Systems Blog

As part of their efforts under the EPA Training and Technical Assistance Grant award, the Environmental Finance Center Network is offering to connect those with an interest in topics related to water finance and management to their Small Systems Blog.  Common blog topics include asset and energy management, regulatory compliance, fiscal planning and rate setting, funding coordination, water loss reduction, managerial and financial leadership and water system collaboration.

Their latest featured blog post is written by David Tucker, a Project Director at the UNC Chapel Hill EFC.  Click the title to read more The Virtuous Cycle: Internal Energy Revolving Funds for Small Water Systems.

If you’d like to receive this blog on a monthly basis, just click this link Subscribe.

Free Technical Assistance Available for Underserved Communities Through Community Engineering Corps

[Editor’s Note:  Our colleagues at AWWA are hoping to spread the word on CE Corps as a no-cost alternative for disadvantaged or underserved communities with infrastructure issues. Please contact them if you know of small communities that would qualify for these volunteer services.]

The Community Engineering Corps® (CE Corps) combines the strengths of three allied organizations – American Water Works Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, and Engineers Without Borders USA – to assist underserved US communities in meeting their infrastructure needs and improving the quality of life for each of the communities’ members.

CE Corps volunteers work with US communities that do not have the financial resources to hire engineers. They work directly for communities, or for organizations that represent communities. All publicly owned water systems are eligible to apply for technical assistance. Private water systems held by a for-profit entity serving a nontransient community are also eligible as are private water systems held by nonprofit organizations serving private nonprofit businesses. Examples of such systems include a water system privately owned serving a mobile home park and a water system serving a nonprofit camp facility or school. However, a private water system held by a for-profit entity serving a for-profit business (e.g., a water system serving a restaurant) would not be eligible for technical assistance through CE Corps.

The project process always starts with the community. Once a CE Corps project team has been matched with a community, the team and community work together to develop a work plan and scope of work which describes the team that will work on the project, the schedule, the work tasks, and deliverables. Typical deliverables may include preliminary engineering reports, conceptual designs, permit applications or grant applications. The community may then use the information the project team has provided to hire appropriate contractors to implement the project or build the capital improvements. Any capital construction costs associated with the project shall be borne by the community; however, a community may elect to have volunteers stay engaged with it in the capacity of “owner’s representatives.”

One drinking water project example is the community of Cedar Gulch South Dakota that requested technical assistance with its water system because they cannot meet the SDWA limits for radium and gross alpha. The community has requested engineering assistance to determine which options give it the best return on investment. Cedar Gulch has been matched with a group of volunteers from Virginia to develop a work plan. Among several available alternatives, they are considering a new well, centralized treatment, point-of-use treatment, and possible regionalization with a neighboring community. The end goal of this project will be to bring the community’s water system back into compliance with SDWA requirements.

A second example is Delta Junction, Alaska, where the Snowed Inn RV and Trailer Park has applied for technical assistance to address violations listed on the community’s 2014 Sanitary Survey. The trailer park is home to 24 permanent residents but hosts seasonal tourists as well. The permanent residents are at risk of losing their homes if corrections are not made to the water and sanitation infrastructure. Deficiencies that could be corrected have been addressed; however, there are outstanding issues requiring the expertise of engineers. The applicant also requested assistance in identifying potential grants that could fund capital improvements to the water and sanitation systems. This project is currently open and CE Corps is accepting volunteer project team applications.

Community Engineering Corps is driven by communities motivated to take the next steps to improve their infrastructure systems. Communities can find technical assistance for their next project by submitting an application online.

Since the program launch in February 2014, CE Corps has seen successes across the US. Currently, more than 25 projects are in varying stages of progress. Several of these project communities were first introduced to CE Corps through their state primacy agencies.

Getting started:

  1. Visit the CE Corps website for FAQs, application instructions, and additional information
  2. Complete and submit the Community Application for a Community Engineering Corps Project through either cecinfo@ewb-usa.org or www.communityengineeringcorps.org

Contact:  Send your questions to Lindsey Geiger, Project Engineer, American Water Works Association at lgeiger@awwa.org

 

 

National Capacity Development & Operator Certification Workshop a Success

Nearly 130 partners and colleagues from the small water system community in 36 states and Washington, DC came together this week in Dallas to discuss opportunities to enhance capacity development and operator certification programs across the states.  The Workshop theme, Roadmap to the Future:  Building Sustainability & Integrating Resiliency, sparked numerous brainstorming sessions, presentations from subject matter experts, and calls for development of forward thinking ‘next steps’ strategies.  Contributors included state capacity development, operator certification, and DWSRF program staff, EPA Headquarters and Regional staff, other Federal agency partners, and assistance providers from each of the major training organizations.  Discussions ranged across a broad spectrum of topics such as water system partnerships, financial capacity, resiliency, operator training and workforce, sustainability and collaboration, and communication and community relationships.

The Workshop was cohosted by ASDWA and EPA’s Sustainable Systems Team.  Efforts are already under way to develop a workshop summary, post presentations, and outline strategies to take appropriate next steps based on participant input related to challenges and opportunities.  ASDWA will keep you informed of the progress of these various follow up efforts and share materials and information as soon as they become available.

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.