Essential Learning Series – Water Infrastructure Funding: Paying for Clean, Safe, Affordable Water

Young woman showing drinking glass with water

Across the country, water utilities, water systems, and local governments are struggling to maintain and rehabilitate their aging infrastructure. At the same time, investment in water infrastructure, including drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure, lags well behind what is needed to ensure safe, clean, and affordable water.

River Network’s Drinking Water Guide looks into this issue in the “What Does Drinking Water Cost” and “What Is My Water Bill Paying For?” sections.

This four-part webinar series digs deeper into these issues to better understand how we currently pay for water infrastructure, including issues of sustainability, affordability, and equity. Specifically, this series looks at how communities generate the money for water projects (both traditional pipes and treatment as well as green infrastructure), how investment decisions are made, and how local organizations can play a role.

Understanding How the Money Is Supposed to Flow – Water Infrastructure Funding and Finance 101

Stacey Isaac Berahzer, CEO of IB Environmental, provides an overview of where water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities are positioned in the local government framework (e.g. local government departments, authorities, etc.), and how this positioning affects their financial flexibility. Participants are provided with a couple of quick ways to check utility financial health and a tour of where the money for these projects comes from, including, loans (such as the State Revolving Funds), grants, bonds, user fees, assessments, impact fees, and taxes.

Setting Water Rates Basics – How Raising Money for Water Projects Happens at the Local Level

In the second of this four-part webinar series, Stacey Isaac Berahzer provides an overview of the rate setting process for water and wastewater utilities. Also covered is how decisions such as project prioritization for capital improvement plans and asset management are made, and how these prioritized projects drive the rate-setting process. Key aspects of rate design, such as customer classes, base charge and billing period, and the rate setting approval process are explained and participants get an overview of the types of rates structures, and the pros and cons associated with each type regarding water conservation and affordability.

Setting Water Rates Considering Customer Affordability and System & Resource Sustainability – Aiming to Address These Needs Together

In the third installment of this series, Stacey Isaac Berahzer, CEO of IB Environmental, takes participants on a deeper dive into setting water rates to address sustainability and affordability. Building off of this series’s second webinar, this webinar explores how rates can be designed to address customer affordability issues and water conservation and efficiency. Stacey provides tips on setting up a separate customer assistance program (CAP), while encouraging water conservation for customers experiencing hardship.

Innovative Financing for Green Infrastructure – Waves in Water Funding

Stacey Isaac Berahzer, CEO of IB Environmental, provides an overview of the evolving use of green infrastructure for water quality management and shares examples of how some traditional financing sources, such as the State Revolving Funds and local utility capital improvement plans, are now used to fund green infrastructure (GI) projects. The key role that stormwater utilities with robust incentive programs play in providing a dedicated source of financing for GI projects is explored and Amanda Hallauer, with the City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management, discusses the nation’s first environmental impact municipal bond.

Additional Resources