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The Tap into Resilience Toolkit

Your source for practical, actionable information on decentralized water infrastructure

Welcome to the Tap into Resilience Toolkit

Welcome to the TiR Toolkit! The Toolkit is an interactive resource for utility decision makers, management, and staff.

Onsite, localized water infrastructure has tremendous potential to address our communities water needs – from drinking water to wastewater to stormwater management. But scaling up investment in and implementation of these solutions and strategies can be challenging.

You’re in the right place. The Tap into Resilience Toolkit is a resource with answers to your financing, tax, accounting, and legal questions that arise when scaling investment in decentralized solutions. The Toolkit includes interactive financing and implementing modules, videos, a resource library, a portal to receive pro-bono support, and much much more.

The Toolkit is here to help you explore, plan for, finance and adopt localized infrastructure solutions like water use efficiency programs, green infrastructure, and onsite reuse.

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Localized Infrastructure Decision-Making Framework

To explore lessons from learned from TiR Case Studies click through WaterNow’s 10-part decision-making framework for deploying localized water infrastructure strategies at larger scale as best fit a community’s particular needs.

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Water Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities

Find resources tailored to communities across the U.S. that face the first, and worst, impacts of water management challenges, including poor water quality and sanitation, flooding, and contamination and other impacts associated with stormwater runoff—all of which are exacerbated by climate change—in the Frontline Communities module.

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What are my financing options?

To learn about accessing capital dollars and other revenue streams to pay for decentralized water infrastructure and solutions to common legal, financial and accounting questions that arise when increasing investments in these environmentally friendly programs click through the “What are my financing options” sections.

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Localized water infrastructure implementation strategies

To learn about common challenges – and corresponding solutions – for public utilities deploying decentralized strategies on public property not directly owned or controlled by the water utility (“public non-utility property”) and private property click through the “Localized water infrastructure implementation strategies” section.

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Toolkit Quick Reference Library

Click here for quick references to Toolkit resources, example documents, and case studies.

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Ask an Expert

Connect with Tap into Resilience expert panelists.

Ask an Expert

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TiR Toolkit Introduction

Watch a short instructional video about how to use the TiR Toolkit.

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Localized Infrastructure Decision-Making Framework

As part of the Innovation in Action: 21st Century Water Infrastructure Solutions report, WaterNow has distilled lessons from Tap into Resilience case studies across the country into a 10-part, high-level decision-making framework for deploying localized water infrastructure strategies at larger scale. This guidance can be adapted and used by local communities as the basis for implementing localized water strategies that best fit the community’s particular needs.

This module of the Toolkit makes the decision-making framework interactive and easily accessible. Just click on the sections below to find an overview of that step in the decision-making process along with direct links to relevant case studies, related TiR Toolkit modules, and other resources in the Toolkit Quick Reference Library.

Explore for yourself to start implementing!

1. Identify the drivers for considering sustainable solutions.

A large number of immediate and longer-term community needs and goals can be drivers for public entities to consider investments in distributed solutions as supplements, or alternatives, to conventional infrastructure. A first step is clearly identifying the various drivers at work in a community and the types of onsite technologies, installations and practices most suited to addressing those issues.

There are many several—often overlapping—drivers motivating water utilities to explore localized solutions from very local (community demand) to global (climate change) considerations including but not limited to the challenges listed in the box to the right.

More than half of the case studies described in the Innovation in Action paper reported deploying localized infrastructure to address the challenges posed by a combination of at least three of these drivers. In other words, localized strategies are serving multiple water management purposes. The most commonly cited drivers for localized infrastructure in the case studies we examined were climate change, declining water supply availability and reliability, drought, regulatory compliance, and urban stormwater management. The decision of the profiled communities to deploy localized infrastructure either to supplement their conventional infrastructure (or avoid expensive new investment in conventional approaches) to meet these fundamental challenges demonstrates sustainable, decentralized strategies can effectively serve the same functions as traditional infrastructure.

Click the case studies below for a few examples of community drivers. All TiR case studies are available here.

City of Eugene Public Works

Eugene Public Works uses city-wide green infrastructure to meet multiple objectives and improve water quality with 1,300 GSI facilities installed on public and private property to date.

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Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Public and private property green stormwater infrastructure already reduce combined sewer overflows by 60% per year.

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Seattle Public Utilities

Debt financing efficiency and green infrastructure rebates for private property installations.

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2. Identify appropriate models and data to assess potential performance.

While there may be more variables involved in estimating how well distributed strategies will perform in relation to more conventional centralized approaches, case studies demonstrate that communities are finding there is sufficient data available to model potential performance with a relatively high degree of confidence. This modeling will allow communities to assess the ability of these solutions to effectively meet water management needs. The data from the case studies show that localized options can perform well.

In its tenth year, Tucson Water’s conservation program conserved more than 2.1 billion gallons (6,446 acre-feet), and the City is currently using water at the same level of use as in 1985, while population increased by more than 226,000 souls. This investment in conservation as a water supply has allowed Tucson Water to defer expanding the capacity of its water system and developing more expensive new centralized supplies.

Philadelphia Water Department’s investments in GI have reduced CSOs by 7 million gallons.

Milwaukee’s GI program is expected to capture and store 740 million gallons of stormwater, eventually outperforming its Deep Tunnel by more than 200 million gallons.

Looking to these and other examples can help water managers evaluate the risks involved with relying on localized water infrastructure, particularly because the many of case studies chose decentralized options specifically to meet federal and/or state regulatory mandates. A few relevant resources are linked below. Additional resources can be found in the All Resources library.

An Assessment of Urban Water Demand Forecasts in California

A Pacific Institute report examining the accuracy of long-range water demand forecasts for California’s 10 largest urban water suppliers finding that per capita water demand declined for all water suppliers…

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A Handbook for Understanding Natural Capital

From our partners at Earth Economics, check out this guidance manual for understanding relationship between economics and natural systems.

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County-Scale Rainwater Harvesting

Report providing county-level analysis of the potential of roof-based rainwater harvesting for urban water use in the U.S.

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Explore Strategies: Opportunities for Localized Solutions

This report dives into the big picture benefits of localized water strategies and how to finance them.

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Lifecycle Analysis of Stormwater Infrastructure Costs

A project intended to provide communities with a tool that takes into account the costs associated with planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, operating, maintaining, renewing, and replacing stormwater infrastructure.

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Tucson Rate Impacts of Increased Water Efficiency

AWWA Journal Feature article on Tucson Water's avoided cost analysis finding that the utility's water conservation programs saved $416 million in system costs.

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3. Evaluate costs and benefits holistically—include financing options and multiple benefits.

The costs associated with public investment in distributed technology and systems will vary widely depending on numerous variables. For purposes of the localized infrastructure decision-making framework, we highlight two in particular: how these strategies are financed, i.e., using annual rate revenue or debt; whether and how cost-benefit analysis accounts for the economic value of key co-benefits that can flow from well-designed onsite programs. Obtaining a fair and accurate understanding of bang-for-buck from a ratepayer perspective will be enhanced by an analysis that captures costs and benefits comprehensively, enabling decision makers to determine the true affordability and rate implications associated with their potential choices.

Various studies, including the Pacific Institute’s multi-benefits framework, are beginning to document that localized and other sustainable water management strategies are capable of providing multiple co-benefits that should be measured and incorporated into decision making. These include open space, improved public health, community engagement, and creating connection with nature, among many other benefits associated specifically with implementing decentralized water strategies. Pacific Institute’s proposed framework includes 3 steps:

  1. Define “the problem” in a way that reflects a holistic approach and analyze the full range of costs and benefits, including benefits that cannot be easily monetized.
  2. Characterize benefits and costs both qualitatively and quantitatively and identify an appropriate baseline measurement as the point of comparison.
  3. Incorporate multiple benefits and costs into decision making using one or more of the growing number of frameworks.

Applying this framework to development of a localized water infrastructure program will help water managers make the case for increased investments in these solutions.

Check out the resources below with more details on Pacific Institute’s multi-benefit framework.

Moving Toward a Multi-Benefit Approach for Water Management

Our partners at the Pacific Institute and collaborator Professor Bob Wilkinson are developing a framework for incorporating multiple benefits of water projects into decision-making.

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Webcast: Tapping into Multiple Benefits

Watch WaterNow’s February 25, 2020, Tap into Resilience webcast.

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Webcast Slides: Tapping into Multiple Benefits

Download the slides from WaterNow’s February 25, 2020, Tap into Resilience webcast.

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4. Incorporate distributed onsite systems into capital planning alongside conventional infrastructure.

Capital Improvement Plans are often a critical blueprint for public utility investment over the long-term. For many, if not most utilities, inclusion in these or similar planning documents is essential for any project to be considered eligible for capital financing. One of the surest ways for localized infrastructure to be treated on par with more conventional infrastructure approaches is to incorporate these solutions into capital planning. This shift in framing can open up the full range of available funding options — see Part 5 below.

In particular, under GASB Statement 62, local utilities can account for distributed infrastructure as a regulated asset rather than an annual expense allowing these expenditures to be capitalized. These programs are not “give aways,” they are public investments that provide long term benefits to the utility that accrue over the life of the debt. For example, rebates for water efficient appliances and fixtures add value to a utility’s system by reducing water consumption over time, not only in the year that the rebate was issued.

Assets that provide benefits overtime should be capitalized to ensure the costs are “matched” with benefits. The matching principle is important because the proper matching of expenses and revenues gives a more accurate appraisal of the results of operations, helps to avoid distortion of the financial position of the business, improves the quality of the financial statements, and ensures generational equity so that future ratepayers share in the costs of improvements that provide benefits over time. Further, the GASB interpretation guide uses water efficiency programs as an example of what a utility might choose to capitalize: “…certain period costs (for example, … conservation program costs of providing assets, such as low-flow shower heads, to customers) that are proposed for recovery in future rates.”

The “What are my financing options?” section of the Toolkit provide more details on capitalizing investments in localized infrastructure.

5. Think broadly and creatively about financing options.

Many financing options available for conventional infrastructure can also be accessed to finance large-scale distributed systems, including but not limited to those listed in the box below.

Leveraging one or more of these funding sources to scale investment in localized water solutions is the surest and most expeditious way to deploy adoption of these strategies broadly across a community and more fully realize their benefits.

The “What are my financing options?” sections of the Toolkit provide more details on funding and financing options for localized infrastructure investments. A few key resources are linked below.

A Water Leaders Guide to Financing Localized Solutions

A water leader's guide to finance distributed infrastructure.

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Go Green: Muni Bond Financing for Distributed Water Solutions

A primer for water leaders on how to debt-finance distributed infrastructure projects and consumer rebates.

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Developing Rates for Small Systems

AWWA how-to manual for ratemaking for small utilities serving a population of up to 10,000 customers.

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6. Incorporate stakeholder outreach and engagement in planning & implementation.

Decentralized strategies, by definition, require partnering with owners of various types of property throughout the community—streets, public buildings and parks, schools, institutions, businesses, industries and residences. Implementing onsite water strategies thus presents unique opportunities for community engagement, but also means that achieving widespread adoption of these strategies must include an intentional and well-resourced program to incorporate stakeholder outreach, education and communication at both the planning and implementation phases.

Key stakeholders include:

Utility customers
Sister agencies within the utility’s service area or city
Local nonprofits and community groups
Area businesses such as landscapers, nurseries, plumbers

Such engagement can help managers identify and prioritize areas of the community most in need of localized solutions such as green infrastructure both from a water management and co-benefits perspective. Taking this step also helps utilities build needed partnerships with community groups that are valuable to implementation and ongoing community engagement.

For example, San Antonio Water System has had great success in working with area groups to reach customers in all parts of its service area. Los Angeles and Austin were able to develop long-term integrated water plans that represent the communities’ needs and values by conducting rigorous public outreach and meeting the public where they were.

San Antonio Water System

By treating conservation as a source of supply San Antonio Water System reduced water consumption in its service area by 50%.

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City of Los Angeles Sanitation District

Comprehensive One Water Plan that includes site-level and regional green stormwater infrastructure.

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Austin Water

100-year One Water plan to increase local water supplies and mitigate climate change impacts.

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7. Identify project- and place-specific implementation challenges.

Like conventional infrastructure, distributed water infrastructure entails implementation complexities such as navigating legal, financial and accounting issues. In addition, different types of localized strategies can entail different types of risks; for example, onsite treatment and reuse systems raise public health issues; leak detection devices sometimes require professional installers raising training and liability challenges; bioswales, green roofs and urban trees require ongoing maintenance (see below). Implementation issues can be more easily addressed by identifying them as early as possible in planning and establishing a process to resolve them.

There are plenty of solutions for steering through these challenges, including creating intra-agency coordination through cost-sharing and other agreements, setting regulatory mandates or establishing incentive programs to motive private participation, formalizing ongoing operation and maintenance requirements through contracts, easements, or other mechanisms. Exactly which challenges a community might face and how to overcome them will depend on community, project and occasionally state, specifics.

A few relevant resources are linked directly below. Explore the “Localized water infrastructure implementation strategies” section of the Toolkit for more information on ways to overcome implementation challenges.

Intra-agency Coordination: Philadelphia’s Cost-Sharing

Learn how the Philadelphia Water Department shares costs with other city departments

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MWRD: Intergovernmental Agreement

MWRD funds green infrastructure built by partner communities and public agencies. An Intergovernmental Agreement between MWRD and its partners help secure long-term benefits.

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Conservation Program Operation & Management

AWWA manual detailing critical elements of establishing, implementing, and evaluating an effective water conservation program.

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8. Identify internal capacity, gaps, and available support resources.

Not every utility will have the staff capacity and/or expertise to effectively design, finance, and implement significant localized infrastructure initiatives. A critical step is to evaluate where your city or utility may have gaps in information, resource, expertise or capacity to explore let alone implement newer approaches.

Fortunately, there is a large and growing number of resources available to help utility leaders, management and staff navigate issues, from data analysis, to consumer and stakeholder outreach, to financing support, to project design, implementation and construction.

WaterNow’s Tap into Resilience online platform is a hub for exploring these resources and making connections to experts and potential partners. Including pro bono assistance on:

  • Financing localized infrastructure accessible through the “Ask an Expert” button below.

Ask an expert

  • Applying for a WaterSMART funding opportunity accessible through the WaterSMART button below.

WaterSMART

  • Jump starting a sustainable water management project through WaterNow’s Project Accelerator. More information on how to apply here.

  • COMING SOON – Becoming a TiR Pilot community by working directly with WaterNow and TiR experts on scaling your community’s investments in localized infrastructure.

COMING SOON – Guide for small systems responsible for stormwater and flood management.

The materials linked below are just a few of the resources available in the TiR All Resources Library designed to help utility leaders, management and staff identify and navigate their community’s water management challenges.

 

AWWA Standard and Operation Guide Set

AWWA guides for implementing critical requirements for water utility management set out in AWWA Standard G400.

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Water Conservation Planning Manual

AWWA manual on developing, implementing, and securing the benefits of water conservation programs.

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Developing Rates for Small Systems

AWWA how-to manual for ratemaking for small utilities serving a population of up to 10,000 customers.

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Principles of Water Rates, Fees and Charges

AWWA manual to help water policymakers, utility managers, and rate analysts consider all relevant factors when setting water rates.

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Drought Preparedness & Response

AWWA manual with step-by-step guide for preparing for and responding to drought related water shortages.

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Lead Communications Toolkit

AWWA toolkit designed to help utilities communicate with their customers about lead in drinking water.

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9. Have a plan for ongoing maintenance.

There is a great deal of discussion, particularly around green stormwater infrastructure implementation, about how to ensure that investments in distributed systems are properly maintained to ensure functionality over time. Whether the best approach is to pass this responsibility on to property owners or for the utility to retain it will necessarily be situation-specific. Case studies do, however, provide some guidance for mitigating this challenge, such as entering into operation and maintenance contracts with landowners.

To ensure distributed infrastructure is properly operated and maintained, water managers need to:

identify staff dedicated to inspection, oversight, and/or monitoring at the outset of the program wherever possible and/or

create a training program to build a cohort of third-party inspectors that report to the utility.

Taking this approach allows water managers to keep better track of the performance of distributed strategies once they are installed, be responsive to operation issues, and have additional assurances that the anticipated water management benefits are fulfilled. In addition, this approach creates local jobs.

The additional costs associated with ensuring appropriate operation and maintenance staff may make a localized infrastructure program more expensive, but not necessarily unattainable when compared with alternative approaches; all infrastructure requires maintenance.

Resources for designing and implementing a localized infrastructure operation and maintenance program are linked below.

MWRD: O&M Plan for Bioswales and Rain Gardens

MWRD enters into O&M plans with organizations that install green infrastructure and receive a grant from MWRD for doing so.

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MWRD: O&M Plan for Permeable Pavement

MWRD enters into O&M plans with organizations that install green infrastructure and receive a grant from MWRD for doing so.

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Conservation Program Operation & Management

AWWA manual detailing critical elements of establishing, implementing, and evaluating an effective water conservation program.

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NEORSD: Green Infrastructure Grants

NEORSD grant program to strategically implement and ensure the long-term maintenance of green infrastructure.

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Intra-agency Coordination: Philadelphia’s Cost-Sharing

Learn how the Philadelphia Water Department shares costs with other city departments

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DOEE: Local Stormwater Ordinance

Read about Washington, D.C.'s Department of Energy and Environment stormwater management ordinance that requires onsite stormwater capture for certain development projects

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10. Establish performance metrics and evaluation methods.

One of the best ways to build public, utility and decision-maker confidence in the efficacy of distributed systems is meaningful data demonstrating value and establishing that these investments are performing as intended.

Performance metrics vary according to the type of strategy employed and the type of data needed to evaluate whether the chosen strategy meets the community’s particular water management challenge. As shown in the case studies, communities are employing a variety of performance metrics and evaluation methods. The table below provides some example metrics communities use to measure localized infrastructure strategies.

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Water Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities

Welcome to the WaterNow’s Frontline Communities module! The following sections of the TiR Toolkit are specifically tailored to support communities across the U.S. facing the first, and worst, impacts of water management challenges. These include, for example poor water quality and sanitation, flooding, and contamination and other runoff impacts —all of which are exacerbated by climate change. Based on input from the TiR Equity Advisory Group  and other research, this Toolkit module provides a set of resources curated to address the pressing needs of communities at the forefront of the struggle for clean, safe, healthy, and reliable water services for everyone.

You can move through the Toolkit by clicking on each of the five sections below: What is a Frontline Community, Meeting Water Challenges with localized Water Infrastructure, Equitable & Affordable Water Infrastructure Investments, Building Capacity Through Partnerships, and Avoiding Water Shutoffs. Under each tab you’ll find an overview of that topic, as well as in-depth resources for download, explanatory videos, and examples and case studies. You can sort the All Resources library by “TIR Toolkit” if you’re looking for quick access Toolkit resources.

What is a Frontline Community?

It’s estimated that over 2 million people across the U.S. lack clean water and proper sanitation, while hundreds of billions of gallons of untreated wastewater and stormwater are released as combined sewer overflows to surface waters each year, while polluted urban stormwater runoff from separate sewer systems continues to be a major cause of impairments to surface water quality and adverse impacts to public health. Climate change puts additional pressure on these challenges, increasing the likelihood of storms and floods in some locations, and exacerbating drought and heat in others.

And while everyone, everywhere is affected by climate change, there are gradations of impact and, within the broader national context, numerous communities are facing the first, and worst, impacts of these water management challenges as shaped by climate change. These “frontline communities”—and the utilities that serve them—are on the frontlines of accessing safe, clean, affordable and equitable drinking water and wastewater and stormwater services. They are, not surprisingly, often economically disadvantaged and/or have a legacy of racial discrimination; frontline communities are far flung and can include cities, towns, villages, and neighborhoods, including in indigenous communities, Appalachia, the U.S.-Mexico border, California’s Central Valley, the Deep South, and in urban city-centers.

Click through the sub-sections below for one approach to defining frontline community, and to access an overview of how utilities and community groups are working to center frontline communities and to support them in meeting their water management challenges.

Defining “Frontline Community”

Frontline communities are those that experience “first and worst” consequences of underinvestment in water infrastructure, including poor drinking water quality, aging and overtaxed sewers, flooding and basement backups, and polluted stormwater runoff. All of these impacts are intensified by climate change. WaterNow views elevating and addressing the needs of frontline communities as a foundational water equity issue. 

Frontline communities and the utilities that serve them generally fall into two categories:

(1) Critically under-resourced communities with water utilities or public works departments in urban, suburban and rural settings facing chronic, endemic issues related to limited staff capacity, investing in infrastructure, and keeping rates affordable; and

(2) Low income neighborhoods and/or communities of color served by better-resourced water utilities (usually in larger cities), but are disproportionately impacted by water challenges, such as neighborhood flooding, unaffordable rates, and/or face unique barriers to access to clean, safe water services.

The water utilities and agencies serving frontline communities face unique challenges in financing and deploying water strategies. Recognizing the reality of frontline communities is an important first step in meeting these communities’ pressing needs and advancing water equity at the local level.

Click on the links below to access additional resources about frontline water challenges. Click here to navigate to the Meeting Water Challenges with Localized Water Infrastructure section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

 

US Water Alliance Water Equity Task Force

US Water Alliance's cross-sector, multi-city endeavor to accelerate the development and adoption of equitable water policies and practices.

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Closing the Water Access Gap

DigDeep and US Water Alliance report analyzing water and sanitation access challenges in the United States and offering a plan of action to overcome them.

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DigDeep

Learn more about DigDeep, a human rights non-profit working to ensure that every American has clean, running water forever.

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Water Equity & Climate Resilience Caucus

Learn more about the Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus a national network of organizations working to address water equity and climate resilience.

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Testimony of Brenda Coley on Water Equity

Testimony to the the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on the Water Resources about water equity and why water infrastructure is an environmental justice issue.

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Sustainable & Resilient Frontline Communities

King County’s 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan Sustainable & Resilient Frontline Communities section, an example for others navigating impacts of climate change.

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Centering Frontline Communities

As concerns about water equity are rising to the fore, utilities and community organizations alike are working to center the issues facing frontline communities. In particular they are developing new policy pathways for to advance innovative water services and systems that are affordable, climate resilient, and more intentionally equitable.

Much of this action is taking place at the local and state levels. For example, at least two states have made policy findings that access to water is a human right which can be critically important for building political and regulatory will for follow-on policies that center frontline communities: 

California’s declaration that access to water is a human right codified at Water Code Section 106.3 has helped build momentum around funding and regulatory pathways for addressing equity challenges.  

Louisiana’s Legislature cites United Nation Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights General Comment No. 15, The Right to Water—which states the human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity and is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights—as a fundamental policy driving the state’s efforts to provide safe, clean drinking water.

Additional state-level policies, resolutions, and plans related to drinking water can be found in River Network’s State Policy Hub—an online database of progressive water policies from around the country. And Western Resource Advocates State Water Policy & Program Database highlights several notable and exemplary state water policies and programs from around the country related to three issue areas: urban water conservation, water reuse and land use & water integration.

At the local level, utilities and community groups are on the ground implementing numerous strategies and programs to respond to frontline community needs and create more climate resilient water systems. We looked to the TiR Equity Advisory Group for just a few examples that offer a window into the wide range of strategies local organizations are spearheading: 

Philadelphia Water Department uses an income-based rate structure to ensure water services are affordable for all households. 

Aurora Water implements its “Aurora Water Cares” program to provide bill payment assistance to limited-income customers experiencing financial challenges.

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s “Green Infrastructure Call for Projects” is a pathway for the District to partner with other agencies and school districts in Cook County to build GSI in communities most in need; through its Space to Grow program, MWRD and local partners transform schoolyards into water infrastructure that captures rainwater addressing neighborhood flooding issues while also creating beautiful, vibrant and functional community. 

The grassroots Water Champions program, a partnership between Northeast Ohio Regional Sewerage District, Cleveland Water, & CHN Housing Partners, connects at-risk populations to water and sewer bill assistance.

The California State Water Resources Control Board’s Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience Program provides tools, funding sources, and regulatory authorities designed to ensure that the 1 million Californians who currently lack safe drinking water receive safe & affordable drinking water by funding operations and maintenance costs, cost of consolidating with larger system, provision of replacement water, and funding for administrators to run the small systems.

The Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans works to ensure a lifetime of living, thriving, and loving water for every resident with actions meant to spur long-term change and create movement infrastructure.

Urban Conservancy is a New Orleans-based nonprofit organization leading and collaborating to strengthen the urban environment and local economy through equitable practices, policies and programs.

Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc. is a nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life for people living in the Southeast United States by bringing safe drinking water to low-income rural residents, sanitary water disposal, and structurally sound housing to 450,000+ households across a seven state region.

River Network empowers and unites people and communities to protect and restore rivers and other waters that sustain all life.

In addition, PolicyLink, a California NGO, launched the national Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus in 2018 to build a national network of organizations collaborating on water equity and climate resilience advocacy—centering low income and communities of color. With members across the country (see map below), including WaterNow, the Caucus builds a shared analysis and understanding of water challenges, advocates for policy strategies, and enables members to deliver on water equity results for their communities. The Caucus primarily focuses on federal advocacy, and also fosters peer learning, tool and knowledge development, and facilitates shared local, state, and tribal advocacy. The Caucus’ advocacy helped create the first federal water bill assistance program, among many other achievements.

Do you know of utilities and community groups implementing strategies and programs to respond to frontline community needs and create more climate resilient water systems? Share those stories with us through the form linked below.

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To access additional resources about organizations centering frontline communities click the linked resources below. Click here to navigate to the Meeting Water Challenges with Localized Water Infrastructure section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Philadelphia Water Department

PWD's grants program installs green infrastructure on private property and brings multiple benefits to vulnerable communities.

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Aurora Water Cares

Learn about Aurora Water Cares program to provide bill payment assistance to limited-income customers experiencing challenges in paying their water bills.

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Space to Grow

A multi-sector partnership building green schoolyards in Chicago to create vibrant neighborhood spaces and manage stormwater onsite to reduce flooding.

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MWRD: Green Infrastructure Call for Projects

Learn more about MWRD's program to partner with local agencies to build more green infrastructure throughout Cook County.

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Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience

Learn more about California State Water Resources Control Board’s Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience Program.

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The Water Collaborative

Learn more about The Water Collaboratives work to ensure a lifetime of living, thriving, and loving water for every New Orleans resident.

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Urban Conservancy

Learn more about Urban Conservancy's work to strengthen the urban environment and local economy in New Orleans with equitable practices, policies and programs.

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Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project

Learn more about SERCAP, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life for people living in the Southeast United States.

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River Network

Learn more about River Network, an organization empowering and uniting people to protect rivers and other water resources.

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Meeting Water Challenges with “Localized Water Infrastructure”

Localized or onsite water infrastructure distributed widely across communities can provide sustainable, affordable and climate resilient alternatives to conventional infrastructure. These decentralized systems are able to address a wide range of water resource challenges from stretching water supplies, to capturing and managing runoff to enhancing water quality. Public investments in various types of onsite, localized strategies not only effectively meet drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater needs, but can also be more equitable when compared to conventional built approaches.

Click through the sub-sections below to learn what localized infrastructure is and strategies for implementing these resilient, equitable solutions.

What Is Localized Infrastructure?

Sustainable, localized infrastructure provides climate resilient and affordable solutions that can supplement and extend centralized systems and address a wide range of water management challenges across the One Water spectrum of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater. These programs allow cities, towns, utilities and water resource agencies to pay for or subsidize decentralized solutions across many properties that they don’t own, but are key to sustainable water management in their communities. Localized strategies can effectively safeguard water supply and quality, protect ecosystems, and manage urban runoff—and provide multiple community benefits. Because by their nature localized strategies are distributed across the community, they provide significant opportunity for ensuring the just distribution of costs and benefits among water utility’s stakeholders. Watch the video below to learn more.

For instance, drinking water infrastructure is not just pipes, tanks and reservoirs. It also includes decentralized strategies,   such as high efficiency appliances, graywater reuse systems, lead service line replacements, leak detection devices, onsite non-potable reuse systems, rainwater harvesting, smart irrigation controllers, turf replacement, and source water protection and watershed health.

Stormwater infrastructure is not just deep tunnels and flood channels. It also includes bioswales, blue and green roofs, constructed wetlands, green streets, land conservation, permeable pavement, rainwater harvesting, and urban tree canopies.

Wastewater infrastructure is not just treatment plants and sewer lines. It also includes graywater reuse systems, onsite non-potable reuse systems, constructed wetlands, and private sewer lateral replacement.

 

Benefits of Localized Infrastructure to Frontline Communities

For frontline communities, where centralized infrastructure is aging, dilapidated or may not exist at all, localized strategies can serve a critical function in supplementing centralized systems. They can serve as more immediate solutions as longer-term centralized projects are built or rehabilitated, or ways to reduce the scope and cost of conventional infrastructure keeping rates more affordable and mitigating impacts on overtaxed systems.

Communities have already experienced the benefits of onsite, decentralized technologies and strategies working in tandem with conventional infrastructure that serve as solid examples for frontline communities working to upgrade their water systems:

DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project uses both deep tunnels and green stormwater infrastructure such as bioswales and rain gardens, i.e., a hybrid green-gray approach, to manage stormwater. The City’s investments in green infrastructure distributed throughout the community have reduced combined sewer overflows sooner than could have been achieved with a deep tunnel-only plan. Quicker improvements can be especially important for frontline communities disproportionately bearing the brunt of sewer overflows.

Spanish Fork, Utah, avoided the need to purchase costly new water rights and expand its water supply system to meet peak water demand by providing free smart irrigation controllers to residents to lessen the amount of drinking water used for outside landscaping. The water utility sets the devices to automatically water during non-peak hours, extending the life if its water supply infrastructure by substantially reducing use. A similar program would be beneficial for frontline communities because the localized infrastructure strategy—smart irrigation controllers—were provided at no direct-cost to participants and helped keep water rates low by avoiding the need for costly new centralized infrastructure.

Tucson Water’s water conservation programs provide income qualified residents with free high-efficiency toilets and zero-interest loans to purchase rainwater harvesting systems. These programs not only promote equity by reducing residents’ water bills for essential needs, but also enable the utility to keep water rates low for everyone by deferring, and possibly avoiding, the need to expand system capacity.

New York City’s Cloudburst Resiliency program, being piloted in Southeast Queens, uses neighborhood-scale stormwater infrastructure, such as basketball courts that double as stormwater detention basins, to supplement sewer buildouts. These onsite systems act as a buffer for storms that exceed the capacity of the sewer system. And they provide much-needed upgrades to neighborhood recreation areas offering revitalized spaces for residents to gather when it’s not raining.

In addition to these water management benefits, localized infrastructure provides much needed co-benefits to frontline communities, including:

Local, green jobs

Creation of new local industries

Neighborhood revitalization

Reduced urban heat islands

Increased engagement between utilities and their communities

Localized options are also cost-effective in the long term because, for example, green infrastructure such as urban trees can actually appreciate in value over time unlike centralized systems.

To access additional resources about localized water infrastructure and the benefits of these solutions click the linked materials below. Click here to navigate to the Equitable & Affordable Water Infrastructure Investments section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Innovation in Action: 21st Century Water Infrastructure Solutions

Two-page overview of WaterNow paper examining 13 programs in 12 cities and 9 states and finds noteworthy gains in each test case from investments in smart, efficient distributed water infrastructure.

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Explore Strategies: Opportunities for Localized Solutions

This report dives into the big picture benefits of localized water strategies and how to finance them.

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Moving Toward a Multi-Benefit Approach for Water Management

Our partners at the Pacific Institute and collaborator Professor Bob Wilkinson are developing a framework for incorporating multiple benefits of water projects into decision-making.

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Webcast: Tapping into Multiple Benefits

Watch WaterNow’s February 25, 2020, Tap into Resilience webcast.

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Webinar: Tap into Climate Resilience

Watch WaterNow’s May 12, 2020, Tap into Resilience webcast.

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Webcast: Tapping into Resilient Infrastructure

WaterNow's May 16, 2019, webcast on tapping into resilience with localized water infrastructure.

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Exploring the Green Infrastructure Workforce

Report from Jobs for the Future examining the workforce needed to install, maintain, and inspect green infrastructure systems.

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Direct Installations and Other Strategies to Implement Localized Infrastructure on Private Properties in Frontline Communities

Private properties of various kinds represent roughly 60% of the land mass of most cities and towns in the U.S. So large-scale adoption of onsite localized water infrastructure that could generate multiple benefits for low income and majority minority communities depends on successful partnering with homeowners, businesses, and institutions of all kinds. These partnerships are most successful when the city, town or utility develops a specific, intentional approach to motivate and incentivize private property owners, or caretakers, to participate and implement these strategies and technologies.

Utilities and water resource agencies serving frontline communities face additional challenges incentivizing adoption of localized strategies. Low-income households typically do not participate in rebate programs because they cannot pay the upfront cost of appliances, green infrastructure, or other onsite systems. In addition, the processing times associated with reimbursements can be prohibitively burdensome. And renters are often not eligible for incentive programs.

Direct installation programs can overcome these challenges, lower the likelihood of water debt and water shutoffs, and foster more equitable utilities. Utilities in a growing number of communities are using direct installation strategies to implement localized water infrastructure solutions:

In 2019, Westminster, Colorado, launched a pilot program to provide no-cost water fixture upgrades for residents in affordable, multi-family housing. Analysis indicated that a 48% reduction in indoor water use across 72 residential units translated into a savings of $65,000 on water and sewer bills over a year for Maiker Housing Partners, the local Housing Authority that owns and manages the property. These utility bill savings are then likely to translate into greater access to affordable housing in Westminster—as the costs to the housing authority responsible for paying the water bills go down, the ability to add more units goes up.

Over the past 20 years, Seattle Public Utilities has provided 6,800 free toilets to low-income residents in Seattle. To get the word out about this direct install program, SPU has dedicated outreach and marketing that includes direct marketing for new customers, fliers, brochures, and attendance at resource fairs and other community events. A component of its comprehensive water use efficiency programs, SPU’s direct install program has helped shrink per person water consumption by 44% from 151 to 85 gallons per day.

Spanish Fork, Utah, has begun implementing an innovative water conservation program to install free smart irrigation controllers for residential customers to reduce pressurized outdoor irrigation and stagger watering times to lower peak demand. The City has already seen peak demand reductions and a 17% reduction in outdoor irrigation for homes with smart irrigation controllers installed.

Among its many conservation and efficiency programs, Aurora, Colorado’s, Water Low-Income Water Efficiency Program helps low-income households become more water efficient by replacing old fixtures with new, high efficiency models. Since it fully launched in 2012, the LIWEP program has installed over 500 toilets, 150 showerheads and 300 faucet aerators in low-income household and saved ~21.1 million gallons of water.

For the past two decades, Tucson Water has prioritized conservation over traditional sources of supply through residential and commercial financial incentives and free programs for income-qualified households. In particular, to address equity and affordability issues, Tucson Water provides limited-income individuals and families with free high-efficiency toilets and grants (up to $400) and zero-interest loans (up to $2,000) for rainwater harvesting systems. The program has resulted in the installation of 53,000 high-efficiency toilet and urinals, as well as 2,000 rainwater harvesting and gray water systems, among many other achievements.

Denver Water has pledged to replace all of the lead service lines on private properties within its service area at no direct cost to customers. The utility estimates that there are 64,000-84,000 properties that may have lead service lines across its large service area. While lead service line replacement is not traditionally considered a “direct installation” program, it is included here because Denver’s program prioritizes communities who are most vulnerable and at-risk from lead exposure, particularly infants and children as well as underserved neighborhoods and the initiative is employing the same basic building blocks as other direct installation programs; rather than require landowners to put the money upfront and do the work and receive a rebate, the utility is taking on these roles itself.

To learn more about how to design and implement a direct installation program check out WaterNow’s Tap into Resilience: Direct Installation explainer.

Other strategies frontline communities can use to implement localized infrastructure to combat water supply, stormwater, flooding, and other water management challenges, include grants, bill credits, and vouchers. For example, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority Community Adaptation Program provides grants of $10,000 to $25,000 to property owners in the Gentilly Resilience District to build green infrastructure and manage stormwater onsite.

No matter the type of incentive used, robust outreach and education to the community is essential to implementing any localized water infrastructure program. Key tools for community engagement include:

Dedicated websites

Social media

Newsletters

Landscaping and other trainings

Local homeowners’ association workshops

Demonstration site educational tours

Targeted mailings and/or calls

Bill inserts

School curriculum materials

Partnering with local community groups

If the target population includes communities where languages other than English are frequently spoken, utilities and their implementation partners should provide customer service in commonly spoken languages in the community. If possible, bilingual staff should also be present for audits and installations to communicate with participants. WaterNow Project Accelerators in Santa Rosa, California, and Walnut Valley Water District, California, are working to operationalize these practices in their communities.

To access additional resources about ways to implement localized water infrastructure click the linked materials below. Click here to navigate to the Equitable & Affordable Water Infrastructure Investments section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Aurora Water

Program to help low-income households become more water efficient saving 21.1 million gallons of water since 2012.

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Affordable Housing Water Fixture Upgrades

City of Westminster, Colorado, launched a pilot program to provide no-cost water fixture upgrades for residents in affordable, multi-family housing that is already saving water and money.

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Communicating with Ratepayers: Getting Past Paying More for Less

Workshop on communicating with ratepayers that provides actionable strategies and helps water leaders to begin to build a vision around communications for their utility

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Equitable Infrastructure Toolkit

River Network's Equitable Infrastructure Toolkit, a one-stop shop for guidance on identifying factors that affect water affordability, an overview of water infrastructure funding and financing, and much more.

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Navigate the Flood

A step-by-step guide and curated list of external technical and financial resources for flood and stormwater management designed with local decision makers in mind.

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Conservation Program Operation & Management

AWWA manual detailing critical elements of establishing, implementing, and evaluating an effective water conservation program.

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Green Stormwater Infrastructure: Impact on Property Values

Center for Neighborhood Technology and SB Friedman Development Advisors report showing that GSI also adds value to homes.

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Strategies for Avoiding Gentrification When Implementing Localized Water Infrastructure

It is crucial that when communities are implementing localized water infrastructure, especially green stormwater infrastructure, they ensure these water system improvements do not lead to unintended consequences such as gentrification and neighborhood displacement. The below provides an introduction to strategies for avoiding these unintended consequences.

For example, a study by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and SB Friedman Development Advisors offers strategies for investing in GSI to combat flooding without putting existing residents at risk of displacement such as:

Community-led planning

Community ownership of the benefits created by GSI investments, e.g., a property tax freeze or credit for seniors and fixed income households to prevent them from facing housing insecurity due to property value increases

Intentional consideration of impacts on neighborhood renters, both residential and commercial

Ensuring jobs created by the GSI investments are filled by local, neighborhood residents

As described by The Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans, green infrastructure investments in New Orleans has not led to gentrification for a several reasons, which are in line with the strategies outlined above. The green infrastructure movement in New Orleans is rooted in black and brown neighborhoods, and the people leading the work are black-lead community organizations. Local utilities are working with these community groups, following their lead. Further, GSI has been implemented with a focus on workforce development for people of color. And the way the city is prioritizing siting for green infrastructure accounts not only for flooding benefits but also for where the investment are most needed from a community perspective.

This is only one example of a community navigating these nuanced questions. WaterNow’s research to further inform this section of the Frontline Communities module is ongoing, and an update to this section is coming soon. To help us in our research, do you know of a community successfully implementing localized water infrastructure and avoiding gentrification and displacement? Share it with us through the form linked below!

Click here

Consolidation and Regionalization to Support Health and Safety in Rural Communities

Frontline communities that have never been connected to centralized drinking water or sewer systems for various reasons confront additional, complex challenges. For these communities, and the utilities that serve them, the path to health and safety often lies in finding ways to connect to existing centralized systems through consolidation and/or regionalization to create a combined system serving multiple jurisdictions.

“Consolidation” means that two or more legal entities merge and operate the under the same governance, management, and financial structures. “Regionalization,” on the other hand, does not combine entities, but is a way for utilities to pool their resources, buying power, and technical expertise, e.g., shared billing services, operator services, or specialized equipment, gaining economies of scale a single utility could not achieve on its own.

Organizations like Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project can help rural communities find the best solution to fit their needs and values. For example, through its Technical Assistance program, SERCAP has helped communities evaluate when consolidation is an appropriate solution, including for the Village of Hobson, Virginia, where residents were without adequate indoor plumbing. With SERCAP’s support, Hobson was able to build new homes and connect them to an adequate water system operated by a neighboring water utility. To learn more about Hobson’s story, watch the video below.

 

Do you have an example of a successful utility consolidation or regionalization project? Share it with us through the form linked below!

Click here

While coupling investment in these foundational systems with investments in localized infrastructure can supplement centralized systems by making them more climate resilient and affordable, consolidation and regionalization are complex strategies that frontline communities may need to consider to meet their water management challenges. Providing a full set of resources and guidance on consolidation and regionalization are beyond the scope of WaterNow’s TiR Toolkit. To access resources specific to consolidation and regionalization check out the materials linked below.

Strengthening Utilities Through Consolidation

Report synthesizing the body of evidence about the financial outcomes possible with water utility consolidation.

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Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project

Learn more about SERCAP, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life for people living in the Southeast United States.

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Rural Community Assistance Corporation

Learn more about RCAP's training, technical and financial resources available to rural communities in the West.

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Avoiding Shutoffs

Shutting off water service for non-payment of water utility bills has been standard utility practice nationwide for decades. This approach has been criticized for many years—water and sanitation are basic human needs. However, the COVID-19 pandemic thrust the issue into public consciousness and debate at a new level and there is a growing consensus, although by no means unanimity, that it is crucial for water utilities to develop strategies to avoid water shutoffs, and to develop alternatives to address non-payment of water service bills. The issue is particularly acute in frontline communities where residents can be especially vulnerable to shutoffs.

There are a number of strategies available to utilities to avoid shutting off water to households in frontline communities. These include primarily:

Investing in water use efficiency, conservation, and other localized infrastructure implemented via grant or direct install programs that enable households to lower their water use and reduce their bills

Customer assistance programs

Tiered rate structures

Community liaison programs

Adjustments to billing systems to reduce billing mistakes

Improved customer outreach

Jump to the full Avoiding Water Shutoffs section below to learn more about these strategies, find utility success stories where they have prevented shutoffs, and access additional resources for preventing shutoffs.

Equitable & Affordable Water Infrastructure Investments

Water utilities serving frontline communities not only face water management challenges, but also encounter difficulties in accessing funding and financing mechanisms to invest in needed water infrastructure upgrades. Frontline communities’ special challenges accessing the funding required to invest in vital water infrastructure range from severely reduced federal financial support for local water systems over the years, to financially distressed rate bases that cannot afford the cost of needed infrastructure, declining populations leading to a smaller number of customers within the utility service area, and/or lack of internal capacity and expertise to apply for the grant and support programs that are available. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified these already pressing issues as revenue losses hit urban areas hard.

Click through the sub-sections below to learn about available federal and state grant and loan options for frontline communities and how to ensure inter-generational equity when making water infrastructure investments.

Federal and State Grant and Loan Options for Frontline Communities

Frontline communities often do not have the financial capacity to borrow as needed to invest in either conventional or innovative water infrastructure. Poor credit ratings may make the cost of borrowing prohibitive, or financial challenges may prevent the community from being attractive to investors. There are a significant number of federal and state grant and loan programs available to cities, towns, utilities and water resource agencies to invest in sustainable, resilient water infrastructure, notwithstanding the forty-year decline in federal support. Key opportunities include the following:

American Rescue Plan Act funds can be used for a broad range of projects that improve access to clean drinking water, improve wastewater and stormwater infrastructure systems, and local governments have wide latitude to identify investments in water and sewer infrastructure that are of the highest priority for their own communities, which may include projects on privately-owned infrastructure.

Housing and Urban Development’s Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program (Section 108) provides communities with a source of low-cost, long-term financing for economic and community development projects—including green infrastructure and water other infrastructure improvements. Section 108 financing provides an avenue for communities to undertake larger, more costly projects, where they may have limited resources to invest in upfront.

EPA’s Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants provides grants for projects designed to address infrastructure needs for combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows, and for stormwater management, and prioritizes municipalities in financially distressed communities.

State-administered State Revolving Fund loan programs offer subsidized financing options including principal forgiveness, zero interest loans, negative interest loans, and, grants. Eligibility for these subsidized options depends on each state’s SRF policies, but is often available to small and disadvantaged communities. Additional subsidies may also be available for green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency improvements, and other environmentally innovative activities that qualify for a state’s Green Project Reserve.

For utilities in Western states, the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program provides grants for water use efficiency, conservation, and drought resiliency projects. WaterNow offers pro bono support for communities interested in apply for a WaterSMART grant.

EPA maintains a Water Finance Clearinghouse as a web‐based portal to help communities locate information and resources to assist in making informed decisions for their drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure needs. The database can be filtered by funding type, eligible uses, eligible applicants, and community type, e.g., small, medium, large.

Municipalities navigating Clean Water Act compliance questions, including funding and financing options, can also get direct assistance from the EPA Municipal Ombudsman who will coordinate with EPA offices to assist communities in accessing EPA resources on financing, technical assistance, and integrated planning.

To access additional resources about ways to fund and finance water infrastructure investments in frontline communities click the linked resources below. Click here to navigate to the Building Capacity Through Partnerships section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Ensuring Inter-Generational Equity

Inter-generational equity is the idea that water infrastructure costs should be borne by both current and future ratepayers because the benefits of these investments are enjoyed by both. The primary vehicle for advancing inter-generational equity is public borrowing, often in the form of municipal bonds and/or other low cost capital. For example, cities and utilities will typically finance gray infrastructure such as water treatment facilities or stormwater tunnels by floating municipal bonds; they use the bond proceeds as capital to pay for the upfront construction costs, and amortize repayment of the loan over the 30-year (or more) life of the bonds. Thus, the cost of long-lived infrastructure is not borne entirely, or even primarily, by the ratepayers at the time of construction, but is instead shared by ratepayers across the decades that the infrastructure is providing community benefits.

The same approach is available for investments in longer-lived distributed water infrastructure as an additional path to ensuring inter-generational equity in frontline communities. In many cases, decentralized green options can be more cost-effective than expensive centralized systems in providing enhanced water supply, sanitation and stormwater management. Public borrowing to put these long-term solutions in place—just as a utility would for centralized systems—spreads the costs of these investments across current and future ratepayers and allows the utility to bring these more equitable, resilient strategies to scale. Equitable water management portfolios should, thus, include distributed solutions as capital projects that can be paid for the same way as centralized systems.

For example, if a utility with a $70 million annual budget were considering investing $10 million in a major direct installation program to provide high efficiency appliances for income qualified renters and homeowners, the utility would have to raise rates 14% to pay for the program out of its annual operating budget. If instead the utility debt-financed the program and paid for it over 20 years, less than a 1% rate increase would be needed to implement the same $10 million direct installation program—a much more affordable approach. At the same time, the utility customers eligible for the program can likely keep their rates low because they’ll be using less water as a result of the appliance upgrades lessening the impact of the 1% rate increase even further.

To access additional resources about ways to ensure intergenerational equity in frontline communities by investing in localized infrastructure click the linked resources below. Click here to navigate to the Building Capacity Through Partnerships section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Building Capacity through Partnerships

Water utilities across the country are increasingly, and successfully, turning to partnerships with community groups, NGOs, and other cities and utilities to build capacity and advance greater water equity in their communities.

Click through the sub-sections below to learn how to identify main capacity challenges facing utilities serving frontline communities, how to identify local partners who can help overcome those challenges, and what best practices to follow when building capacity through partnerships.

Identifying Internal Utility Capacity Challenges

There are considerable resources available to support local water utilities and water resource agencies. Key to both navigating and accessing those resources is having a clear-eyed vision of what specifically would be most needed and useful. Utilities serving frontline communities often face a range of capacity challenges, including:

Historical placement of infrastructure such that certain neighborhoods or communities within the utility service area are disproportionately impacted by water challenges

Limited staff

Lack of access to technical resources

Hard-to-reach populations, e.g., non-English speakers or renters

Inexperience in community outreach and education

Lack of expertise in designing, operating and maintaining distributed, localized infrastructure

As first step to addressing these and related issues, it can be useful for local water utilities to review the 10 attributes of an effectively managed utility to identify internal gaps:

  1. Product Quality – the provides a level of service that meet or exceed full compliance with regulatory and reliability requirements and is consistent with customer, public health, ecological, and economic needs
  2. Customer Satisfaction – the utility provides reliable, responsive, and affordable services in line with explicit service levels based on customer feedback
  3. Stakeholder Understanding and Support – the utility engenders understanding and support from all stakeholders (i.e., customers, oversight bodies, community and watershed interests, regulatory bodies, etc.) and actively promotes an appreciation of the true value of water and water services
  4. Financial Viability – the utility understands and plans for the full life-cycle cost of utility operations and value of water resources, and establishes and maintains an effective balance between long-term expenses and operating revenues
  5. Operational Optimization – the utility ensures ongoing, timely, cost-effective, reliable, and sustainable performance in all facets of operations to serve public health and protect the environment
  6. Employee and Leadership Development – the utility recruits, develops, and retains a workforce that is competent, motivated, adaptive, and safety-focused; it establishes a collaborative, participatory organization; and promotes sharing of institutional knowledge as well as professional growth among a multi-generational workforce
  7. Enterprise Resiliency – the utility leadership and staff work together, and in coordination with external partners, to anticipate, respond to, and avoid problems by, among other things, proactively identifying, assessing, and establishing tolerance levels for a range of risks
  8. Infrastructure Strategy and Planning – the utility understands the condition and costs associated with critical infrastructure assets, and plans investments consistent with community needs and priorities, anticipated growth, and system reliability goals while building in a robust set of adaptive management strategies
  9. Community Sustainability – the utility is actively collaborating with local partners, including other public agencies and community groups, to identify and achieve community values
  10. Water Resource Sustainability – the utility engages in long-term integrated planning recognizing the utility’s role in the complete water cycle and One Water management, plans for water resource variability including extreme events like floods and droughts, and protects current and future customer, community, and ecological water-related needs

Assessing how your utility performs in each of these attributes is a useful way to identify internal capacity gaps and areas of focus for outside support. With these considerations in mind, utilities will be well-positioned to identify partners who can add value and put them on the path towards building needed capacities.

To access additional resources about identifying capacity challenges click the linked resources below. Click here to navigate to the Avoiding Water Shutoffs section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Identifying Partners Who Can Add Value

Utilities no longer need to go it alone. Partnerships with community groups, NGOs, and other cities and utilities can effectively engage the public, extend and supplement limited utility resources, and advance the goal of an equitable water future for everyone.

There are multiple avenues for utilities to establish trust-based partnerships, including:

Getting out into the community and building personal relationships with trusted community leaders that can grow into collaborative, mutually beneficial partnerships

Participating in community events to put a personal face to the utility which can sometimes be seen as an institutional black box

Creating citizen advisory groups to actively involve the community in utility decision-making

Engaging in workforce development programs that train utility leaders of the future and can provide well-paying jobs including for at-risk youth

Establishing the utility as an Anchor Institution—an organization rooted in a specific location that has a long-term interest in the economic and social vitality of the surrounding community

Click here to jump to the Best Practices For Building Trusting Partnerships section of the Toolkit and learn more about how utilities can foster durable partnerships.

Successful partnerships in frontline communities throughout the U.S. provide models for others navigating drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater management challenges:

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewerage District, Cleveland Water & CHN Housing Partners’ grassroots Water Champions program connects at-risk populations to water and sewer bill assistance, and helps build public understanding of water quality issues and the value of water and enhances the utility’s understanding of community needs

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s “Green Infrastructure Call for Projects” creates a pathway for the district to partner with local governments and school districts in Cook County to build GSI including projects in Chicago’s 18th and 47th Wards, which experience severe street and basement flooding.

Aurora, Colorado, with a rapidly growing population has determined that wiser use of existing water supply has a central role in meeting future water demand. To that end, it has implemented the Aurora Water Low-Income Water Efficiency Program, a partnership with Mile High Youth Corps that replaces old water-wasting fixtures in low income households with new, high efficiency models

As part of Atlanta’s development of its GI Strategic Plan, the city’s Department of Watershed Management collaborated with a nonprofit, the Partnership for Southern Equity, to convene a series of stakeholder workshops to consider potential unintended consequences of green infrastructure on disadvantaged communities, and as a result Atlanta’s strategic plan expressly instructs that green infrastructure be developed and implemented equitably based on shared values

Watch the video below to hear from 4 more utilities and communities engaged in powerful partnerships that helped build more equitable and resilient water systems.

To access additional resources about identifying partners that can add value click the linked resources below. Click here to navigate to the Avoiding Water Shutoffs section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Best Practices for Building Trusting Partnerships

To be successful and long lasting, partnerships between water systems and community groups depend on core operating strategies such as robust stakeholder engagement and participation in program design, increasing transparency, and open lines of communication.

Based on interviews with successful community and water utility partnerships, WaterNow and one of our key partners, River Network, have developed a set of 8 best practices for building trusting partnerships:

  1. Dedication to Honesty and Transparency
  2. Restoring Trust
  3. Deepening Community and Community Groups’ Understanding of Utilities Roles and Responsibilities
  4. Recognizing Shared Goals to Leverage Mutual Benefit
  5. Include the Community as Part of Utility Decision Making
  6. Water Utility Innovation and Community Facing Orientation
  7. Building on Personal Relationships, Creating Continuity, and Meeting People Where They Are
  8. Moving from Personal to More Formalized Relationships

These foundational steps for building trust are a constellation of practices that can be applied in any order depending on where a particular utility and community fall on the trust spectrum. Click here to read the full report, “Building Blocks of Trust: Building Lasting, Authentic and Equitable Relationships between Community Organizations and Water Utilities.”

Many of these best practices also apply to partnerships between utilities or other public agencies, including dedication to honesty and transparency, recognizing shared goals, and water utility innovation. But when forming relationships among governmental agencies utilities serving frontline communities will also need to consider ways to:

Share upfront cost of project construction

Pool labor and operation & maintenance resources

Coordinate with other already planned capital projects such as street repairs

Integrate water, sewer, and stormwater planning

For example, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago enters into “Intergovernmental Agreements” with municipalities it partners with to build green infrastructure to set out the scope, design, construction, and operation and maintenance of the green infrastructure projects MWRD helps fund.

To access additional resources about best practices for trust-based partnerships click the linked resources below. Click here to navigate to the Avoiding Water Shutoffs section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Avoiding Water Shutoffs

Households in the United States have experienced considerable increases in the cost of water and wastewater services over the past decades. According to a 2020 Boston University study, water and sewer costs are the fastest-growing category of household costs. Since 2010, water and sewer service  costs grew by 4.83% per year. A 2019 study by The Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund found that rising water rates are most likely to impact communities of color. With these increases in cost, shutting off water service has become a standard utility practice for addressing non-payment challenges.

To be clear, no utility desires or seeks to shut off critical water services for any customers. Shutoffs are typically regarded as an authority required to ensure a utility’s fiscal health as a “last resort” for addressing customers far in arrears on bill payment. The federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic included creation of the first federally-funded water-related customer assistance program (the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program) with $1.1 billion available as of 2021 to help those struggling to pay their water and sewer bills. However, it is uncertain whether this federal assistance will available going forward. Local utilities—especially those serving at-risk communities—will therefore continue to be on the frontlines of providing clean, safe, reliable water, wastewater, and stormwater services while also ensuring those services are affordable for everyone. The challenge for these utilities is how best to address non-payment challenges without resorting to service shutoffs which can have devastating impacts, particularly in hard hit frontline communities.

Click through the sub-sections below to learn about strategies for avoiding water shutoffs and find success stories from utilities keeping rates affordable and the water turned on.

Strategies for Avoiding Water Shutoffs

Utilities can deploy a number of strategies to avoid shutting off water to households in frontline communities, including:

Customer assistance programs

Incentivizing water use efficiency, conservation, and other localized infrastructure through grant or direct install programs to reduce customer bills

Income-based rates

Life line rates

Tiered rate structures

Community liaison programs

Financial assistance donation programs

Forgiveness programs

Adjustments to billing systems to reduce billing mistakes

Improved customer outreach

Successfully putting one or more of these measures in place means evaluating income characteristics of utility customers and the impact on revenues that would result from assistance programs, partnering with local community groups, and integrating water assistance programs with other programs such as housing, food, or energy assistance.

Implementing these strategies are not without their challenges, however. Potential barriers to establishing robust alternatives to water shutoffs include:

Lack of funding

Legal restrictions on rate structures and prohibitions on using rates to subsidize one class of customer with revenues from another class of customer

Service areas with a large number of low-income ratepayers that would qualify for assistance programs with little buffer to spread the cost of across ratepayers

Lack of economies of scale for small utilities with high per-customer costs

Resources for overcoming these challenges as well as additional resources about avoiding water shutoffs are linked below. Click here to navigate to the What are Frontline Communities? section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Affordability Success Stories

Keeping rates affordable and avoiding water shutoffs are no easy tasks. But utilities throughout the U.S. have found success in meeting these dual objectives. Their programs serve as helpful models for others facing affordability and non-payment challenges.

In 2015, Philadelphia’s city council authorized creation of Philadelphia Water Department’s Tiered Assistance Program. Launched in 2017, this first-in-the-nation income-based rate structure was established in response to growing unaffordability for nearly 40% of PWD’s customers and shutoffs disproportionately impacting black and Latinx households. In a complete shift away from its prior approach, Philadelphia’s TAP program provides customers that need help paying their bills before they fall behind and go into debt. The program works by setting a resident’s bill as percentage of their household income and size rather than water consumption. So households with a monthly income of 150% of the federal poverty level, e.g., about $3,075 (as of 2017) for a family of 4—or those with a special hardship are eligible to enroll. For example, a family of 4 with ~$12,300 annual income would have a monthly water bill of $20.50.

Aurora Water created Aurora Water Cares to provide bill payment assistance so that limited-income customers experiencing challenges don’t need to worry about whether they can take a shower, do laundry or wash the dishes. Under this initiative, homeowners and renters who are past due on their bills can receive up to $125 in assistance once a year, with a limit of four total awards. The program is funded by individuals’ donations as well as one-time CARES Act funds provided to the city as part of the federal COVID-relief package. To implement the program, the utility partners with a local non-profit that runs the day-to-day operations including processing applications and determining eligibility. This partnership has been a staple of the success of Aurora Water Cares. Other foundations for success include the utility’s coordination with energy assistance programs and internal billing system with flexibility to accept donations. To evaluate the program’s impact, Aurora Water uses a data dashboard to measure shutoffs avoided and number of participants. Watch the video below to learn about how the Aurora Water Cares program got started by WaterNow’s 2020 Emerging Leader Elizabeth Gillitzer-Gallardo.

As one of the poorest large cities in the country, Cleveland faces challenges around affordability and access to water and sanitation resources. There are also gaps in community members’ awareness of existing affordability programs. The Water Champions Program, a grassroots program to connect at-risk populations to water and sewer bill assistance, grew out of local discussions, through the US Water Alliance’s 2018 Equity Task Force, about how to meet these challenges. A local NGO that provides housing assistance, and administers water and sewer utility affordability programs, CHN Housing Partners is also implementing the two-year pilot of the Water Champions Program with primary financial support from the water utility, the City of Cleveland Division of Water, and the regional wastewater and stormwater utility, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. The Water Champions program seeks to act as a bridge between community members and utilities, focused on water and sewer affordability programs within the City of Cleveland. Read the full Water Champions case study here.

To access additional resources about communities that have successfully avoided water shutoffs click the linked resources below. Click here to navigate to the What are Frontline Communities? section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

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What are my financing options?

The financing sections cover

Utility Costs & Revenue Sources

Debt Financing Localized Infrastructure

Accessing state, federal, and philanthropic funding

Materials are revealed as you move through the Toolkit by clicking on the sections below. Under each tab you’ll find an overview of that topic, in-depth resources for download and further reading, explanatory videos, a searchable database, example ordinances and agreements, and much more. Sort the All Resources library by “TIR Toolkit” if you’re looking for quick access to a specific resource.

Explore for yourself to start implementing!

Utility Costs & Revenue Sources

Utility’s costs include their capital investments and day-to-day operating and maintenance expenses. These costs are paid for out of the utilities revenue sources, i.e., rates, fees, taxes, grants, and bonds. The revenue source available to pay for utility costs depends on the type of cost at issue. In particular, capital costs can be paid for either on a “pay as you go” basis as part of the operating budget or they can be paid for over time with debt as part of the capital budget.

How utilities establish their revenue sources to pay for their costs can vary widely depending on local and state requirements and needs. The subsections below provide an overview of how rates, fees, and taxes can be structured by drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities and how these revenue sources can pay for localized water infrastructure solutions, as well as on special fees sometimes levied to help pay for key programs that can help the utility fund important strategies to help achieve water quality or quantity goals.

Explore the Debt Financing Localized Infrastructure section of the Toolkit to learn more about how utilities can use revenue bonds — a key utility revenue source — to pay for localized infrastructure costs.

Drinking water

Fundamentally, a drinking water utility rate is the amount the water provider charges its customers to cover the costs of delivering and treating drinking water. American Water Works Association’s “Principles of Water Rates, Fees and Charges” provides guidance for water policymakers, utility managers, and rate analysts to help them consider all relevant factors when setting water supply rates.

As utilities rely on rate revenues to operate, decreased water consumption can mean reduced funds for delivery and treatment of water; certainly, this is not a novel issue. Responding to this reality has been the subject of much discussion since at least the mid-1990s.

Implementing one or a combination of the conservation-oriented rate structures listed below can help.

Repeal of volume discounts

Increasing block or tiered rates

Seasonal rates

Drought pricing

Flat fee combined with a variable, tiered rate

Water budgets  

Fixed, variable rate

While water is an essential resource, conservation pricing can yield on average a 15% reduction in water consumption and up to a 22% reduction in per capita use. Indeed, pricing policies making water more expensive, at least at higher tiers, inherently incentivizes business and residential consumers to use water more efficiently, either through technology or behavior changes.

San Antonio Water System (SAWS) uses a tiered rate structure to incentivize lower water consumption, together with other efficiency programs. Over the past 25 years, SAWS customers have reduced their consumption by nearly half from 225 gallons per capita per day (GPCD) to 117 GPCD.

In 2004, Boulder Water Utility boosted the its conservation programs by approving a block water budget rate structure designed to encourage water conservation. The water budget rate structure was further refined in 2018, and using data from this water budget rate structure, Boulder will work to measure the gallons of water saved through its conservation programs. This additional data will inform the program’s success and future needs. 

By offering rebates and establishing a rate structure to incentivize its customers to use water more efficiently, Moulton Niguel Water District saves on average 4,000 acre-feet of water a year and has saved 24,000 acre-feet to date.

Further, communicating with ratepayers early and often about rate increases and conservation efforts is essential. You can find out more about WaterNow’s “Communicating with Ratepayers” workshop by clicking the link below. And a recent Environmental Law Institute article, linked below, highlights the need for the public to support investment in water infrastructure and the importance of communication with ratepayers.

WaterNow has also created a primer on how rates, fees, and incentives can motivate individuals and businesses to employ localized strategies.

Communicating with Ratepayers: Getting Past Paying More for Less

Workshop on communicating with ratepayers that provides actionable strategies and helps water leaders to begin to build a vision around communications for their utility

Read more

Leveraging rates, fees, and incentives

Overview of how the existence of a utility rate or fee can provide a lever to motivate private parties’ participation in localized infrastructure solutions

Read more

The Public Needs to Support Proactive Officials

Article for the Environmental Law Institute about the importance of public support for innovative water management

Read more

Principles of Water Rates, Fees and Charges

AWWA manual to help water policymakers, utility managers, and rate analysts consider all relevant factors when setting water rates.

Read more

Developing Rates for Small Systems

AWWA how-to manual for ratemaking for small utilities serving a population of up to 10,000 customers.

Read more

Wastewater

How wastewater utilities approach rates varies widely. Types of structures include:

Rates

Property taxes

Fees based on parcel-size or amount of water put into the wastewater system

Approaches can also differ within a utility depending on whether a customer has metered or non-metered use or according to the type of property i.e., residential or commercial, being charged.

The University of North Carolina School of Government Environmental Finance Center created a “Rates Dashboard” designed to help utility managers and local officials compare and analyze water and wastewater rates against multiple characteristics, including utility finances, system characteristics, customer base socioeconomic conditions, geography, and history.

Stormwater

Stormwater utility fees can be structured in a number of ways, including:

Tiers of stormwater rates based on diameter of a property’s potable water pipe based on assumptions about usage

Based on a property’s “usage,” i.e., gallons of stormwater that a property generates per inch of rainfall either “parcel-based” or “impervious area-based”

Based on assessed property value, i.e., property taxes

A usage-based charge means impervious area becomes an important determinant of fees. Because the amount of runoff a property creates is directly proportional to the impervious area a property has, it would be fair for a property with a large amount of stormwater infrastructure to pay a higher stormwater fee.

In the parcel tax context, the County of Los Angeles passed Measure W in November 2018. Measure W is a parcel tax that will be assessed to every property on the County’s existing tax roll. The tax will be based on the amount of stormwater each property generates, measured in terms of impervious area. The revenue generated by Measure W will be used to help the County make much-needed localized water infrastructure investments that help the County manage its water supply as well as County water quality. Parcel-based structures can be coupled with financial incentives designed to encourage reduced impervious areas in exchange for reduced fees. Click here to read WaterNow’s primer on motivating private parties to employ localized water infrastructure solutions by leveraging rates, fees, and incentives.

Western Kentucky University’s most recent stormwater utility survey provides a comprehensive overview of the range of stormwater utility rate structures nationwide. WaterNow has also created a primer on how rates, fees, and incentives can motivate individuals and businesses to employ localized strategies. For example, explained in the resource linked below, the City of Portland uses its stormwater utility fee to encourage residents and businesses to manage stormwater onsite.

Los Angeles County: Measure W

In 2018, LA County residents approved a parcel tax commonly called "Measure W" to help pay for localized stormwater management

Read more

Leveraging rates, fees, and incentives

Overview of how the existence of a utility rate or fee can provide a lever to motivate private parties’ participation in localized infrastructure solutions

Read more

Stormwater Utility Survey

Survey by Western Kentucky University researchers to identify and compile information on stormwater utility fees in the US and Canada

Read more

Special Fees

In addition to utility rates, some utilities levy special fees to help pay for key programs that can help the utility fund important strategies to help achieve water quality or quantity goals. Examples include “conservation fees” which collect funds to pay for water conservation programs, or “watershed protection” fees which help fund land acquisition efforts to protect water quality.

As explained in the sub-sections below, the City of Tucson, Arizona, and Central Arkansas Water use special fees to fund localized water infrastructure in their service areas.

Tucson Water

The City of Tucson implements a “conservation fee” that collects $0.10 per every 100 cubic feet (748 gallons) of water used by commercial and residential property owners. The revenue collected from the conservation fee, in turn, is used to fund Tucson Water’s rebates and grant programs, which reimburse residential and commercial property owners for replacing inefficient water fixtures and installing water re-use systems. Projects that Tucson Water reimburses include replacing high-usage toilets and clothes washers with water-efficient models, and installing rainwater harvesting and graywater systems.

The below resources provide additional details on Tucson Water’s conservation fee and rebate programs.

Tucson Water

Tucson Water's comprehensive conservation programs have saved 2.1 billion gallons of water over the past decade.

Read more

Tucson Water: Water Conservation Program Annual Report

Report summarizing the revenues generated and the programs funded by Tucson Water's conservation fee

Read more

Central Arkansas Water

The Central Arkansas Water implements a “watershed protection fee” that generates approximately $1 million in annual revenues. The fee has been in effect since 2009, and is added to the monthly bills of all customers based on the diameter of a property’s water meter. 

The watershed protection fee revenues are then used to repay the agency’s bonds. The bond proceeds are partly used to buy land in Central Arkansas’ watershed that is then protected by a conservation easement. This decentralized strategy helps the agency protect the community’s drinking water from increased pollution that may result from development and other land disturbances.

Click below to read more about Central Arkansas’ watershed protection fee and debt-financed localized water infrastructure program.  

Central Arkansas Water: Watershed Protection Fee

Central Arkansas Water uses a watershed protection fee to fund its conservation program aimed at protecting its source water

Read more

Debt Financing Localized Infrastructure

Utility capital budgets represent the utility’s long-term investments that are financed, mostly, with debt. Debt financing is often attractive to water utilities because it enables them to fund major projects with a minimal impact to ratepayers because the investments can be paid back over time. Traditionally, most utilities have only accessed debt-financing for centralized water infrastructure such as wastewater treatment plants, dams, reservoirs, drinking water conveyance systems, and sanitary sewer collection systems. However, localized water infrastructure can also be financed as part of capital budgets.

Click through the sub-sections below to learn about different types of debt-financing mechanisms including municipal/revenue bonds, green bonds, and environmental impact bonds, to gain insights into legal, tax, and accounting issues that can arise when using debt to pay for localized water infrastructure, and to explore case studies on how other communities have scaled their investment in decentralized strategies by moving these projects from their operating to their capital budgets.

If you would like to connect with an expert for further, pro bono assistance on these issues, click the “Ask an Expert” button below to submit an inquiry to WaterNow’s team of specialists.

Ask an expert

Types of Bonds

There are different types of debt-financing mechanisms available to fund localized water infrastructure solutions, including municipal/revenue bonds, green bonds, and environmental impact bonds. Click through the sub-sections below to learn more.

Municipal/Revenue Bonds

Municipal, or revenue, bonds are bonds issued by local governments to raise funds for public capital projects. These types of bonds provide up-front capital that is paid back over the life of the bond out of general revenues. Municipal utilities and special districts often have bonding authority as well, which allows them to borrow against expected revenue from ratepayers.

Municipalities benefit from a federal law that exempts investors’ interest earnings on the bonds from federal income tax. These “tax exempt” bonds translate to lower interest rates for some forms of municipal debt. Over the past century, tax-exempt municipal bonds have been the primary way that municipalities pay for water infrastructure investments.

Communities are already using municipal bonds to pay for localized infrastructure, including:

Seattle Public Utilities has used $2.2 million in municipal bond proceeds to fund its water conservation rebates programs as well as its low-income direct installation program allowing the utility to implement its market rate program on a regional scale and its low-income program citywide

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power pays for its turf rebate replacement program using capital dollars

Central Arkansas Water finances its conservation easement program aimed at protecting its source watershed with municipal bonds

The resources linked below provide additional information on how utilities can finance localized water infrastructure using municipal bond proceeds.

Go Green: Muni Bond Financing for Distributed Water Solutions

A primer for water leaders on how to debt-finance distributed infrastructure projects and consumer rebates.

Read more

GASB 62: How Does It Work?

Video with Ed Harrington about "Regulated Operations" and GASB 62 and the potential to unlock an alternative way to finance localized infrastructure solutions

Read more

Bond Financing Distributed Water Systems

As extreme weather events exacerbate challenges already faced by communities across the US, this report, by our partners at Ceres, explores how to make better use of current market mechanisms…

Read more

DC Water

Environmental impact bond issued in partnership with Quantified Ventures to finance $25 million in green stormwater infrastructure projects.

Read more

How to Issue a Green Muni Bond

Playbook for cities interested in issuing green bonds to finance sustainable water investments

Read more

Funding Incentive Programs

In May 2018, GASB issued new guidance making it clear that municipal bond proceeds can be used to fund localized water infrastructure

Read more

Green Bonds

Green Bonds are instruments in which the proceeds will be used exclusively for projects and activities that serve environmental sustainability purposes. Many traditional bond underwriters are increasingly developing green bond financing packages. As explained in a Ceres report issued in 2014, there are at least four types:

Green use of proceeds bond

Green use of proceeds revenue bond

Green project bond

Green structured bond

The appropriate type of green bond for a particular project depends on available revenues and collateral to secure the bonds.

Functionally, “green bonds” are municipal bonds, and are secured by a general obligation, project or asset, or revenue. “Green Bonds” differ from traditional bonds because they have undergone a certification process that attest to the environmental benefits of the bond-financed projects. For example, The Water Consortium, a global group of climate finance and sustainability organizations such as Ceres, the World Resources Institute, and Climate Bonds Initiative, launched new Water Infrastructure Criteria of the Climate Bonds Standards. The criteria “defines and evaluates low carbon and climate resilient water infrastructure projects by encompassing two broad components: 1) climate mitigation and 2) climate adaptation and resilience.” Water infrastructure projects that meet the criteria can be included in green bond investment and receive Climate Bond Certification. The TIR Toolkit resource library includes a playbook for issuing green bonds.

Green bonds have been used for a range of environmentally-beneficial projects, and are increasingly being used to finance localized water infrastructure projects, including:

In 2016, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission issued a $240 million green bond to support sustainable stormwater management and wastewater projects

In 2014, District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, also known as DC Water, issued a $350 million green bond to support the utility’s Clean Rivers Project

In 2020, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District issued a $80 million green climate-certified bond for a combination of wastewater and stormwater programs, including $20 million for community based green infrastructure

Green Bond Principles

Report outlining voluntary process guidelines for cities and utilities interested issuing green bonds

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DC Water: Green Bond

Case study on DC Water green bond to support the Clean River Project

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How to Issue a Green Muni Bond

Playbook for cities interested in issuing green bonds to finance sustainable water investments

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MMSD Green Bond Framework

MMSD issued the first-ever climate certified bond for a combined wastewater and stormwater program in the United States.

Read more

Atlanta: First Publicly Offered Environmental Impact Bond

Case study on first-ever publicly offered Environmental Impact Bond financing $14 million in GSI projects in economically and environmentally distressed neighborhoods.

Read more

Go Green: Muni Bond Financing for Distributed Water Solutions

A primer for water leaders on how to debt-finance distributed infrastructure projects and consumer rebates.

Read more

Environmental Impact Bonds

Environmental impact bonds (EIB) are an innovative financing tool that leverages private investment to support high-impact environmental programs. EIBs use a “Pay for Success” approach where private investors provide upfront capital for environmental projects and the beneficiary—either a public entity or a private institution that benefits from the project—repays the investors based on the achievement of the agreed-upon project outcomes.

The “pay for success” aspect means that if a project funded by an EIB does not perform in accordance with pre-determined outcomes, then the water agency may not have to repay the entirety of its the debt (and investors in that bond may lose some amount of their principal, depending on the terms they agreed to when they bought the bonds.) If, on the other hand, the project performs perfectly or even exceeds expectations, investors are repaid if full or could receive a premium out of the budgetary savings created by outperforming projects.

Because repayment of an EIB is benchmarked against specific performance outcomes EIBs create incentives to deploy innovative solutions. And EIBs can be an attractive option for a water agency looking to scale up investment in localized infrastructure projects while also mitigating some of the performance risks.

Click the image to watch Quantified Ventures’ Eric Letsinger explain how EIBs work and provide examples of existing EIBs in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta Georgia.

 

 

Environmental Impact Bonds: How do they work?

Video with Quantified Venture's Eric Letsinger explain how EIBs work

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Atlanta: First Publicly Offered Environmental Impact Bond

Case study on first-ever publicly offered Environmental Impact Bond financing $14 million in GSI projects in economically and environmentally distressed neighborhoods.

Read more

DC Water

Environmental impact bond issued in partnership with Quantified Ventures to finance $25 million in green stormwater infrastructure projects.

Read more

Green Bond Principles

Report outlining voluntary process guidelines for cities and utilities interested issuing green bonds

Read more

2017 Annual Report: CWSRF Programs

Read about the history of the transition from grants to CWSRF, an environmental infrastructure bank, offering below market interest rates and "additional subsidization".

Read more

Bond Financing Distributed Water Systems

As extreme weather events exacerbate challenges already faced by communities across the US, this report, by our partners at Ceres, explores how to make better use of current market mechanisms…

Read more

Answering legal questions that arise when using debt

Water leaders may face several legal questions when debt-financing localized water infrastructure. These questions may come from city attorneys, bond counsel, or other legal and financing staff and consultants, and could include:

  • What is localized water infrastructure from a legal perspective?
  • Does our city and/or utility have the legal authority to employ and/or debt-finance localized solutions to combat our water management challenges?
  • Are there existing debt constraints for financing decentralized strategies?
  • Does my state’s “gift prohibition” preclude the use of public dollars to pay for improvements on private property or benefits to individuals or businesses?

Click through the sub-sections below to find information on how water leaders might answer each of these legal questions that often arise when debt-financing localized infrastructure.

Distributed or “localized” infrastructure from a legal perspective

“Distributed infrastructure” is not a legal term of art. Rather, it is a concept encompassing improvements, technologies and practices spread across many locations with the goal of enhancing a utility system by supplementing the traditional centralized infrastructure. In contrast to centralized infrastructure, which typically refers to largescale treatment and transmission facilities that are owned and operated by a utility, distributed infrastructure describes dispersed facilities located at or near the point of use. Unlike traditional centralized infrastructure, distributed infrastructure assets are generally situated on or consist of improvements to property not owned by the utility, which may call into question the utility’s ownership or control of the assets.    

With a focus on conservation rather than production, distributed infrastructure seeks to achieve a reduction in water use or volume of storm water and wastewater requiring treatment.  It typically functions to conserve resources through technologies that capture rainwater, reuse graywater, or reduce consumption. These technologies and strategies include:

Permeable pavement

Turf buyback programs

Graywater reuse systems

Rain cisterns

Smart irrigation

Click the image to explore localized infrastructure strategies

Bioswales

Green roofs

Water catchment facilities

Water efficient toilets

From a legal standpoint, distributed infrastructure assets can consist of interests in real property, fixtures (personal property permanently affixed to real property), or personal property (including certain rain cisterns and items that can easily be removed from real property). Moreover, ownership interests in real property assets from a legal standpoint may be held by a single party in fee or the various rights ownership brings may be divided among several parties through easements and leasehold interests. Although related, “ownership” and “control” are separate concepts. Depending on the distributed infrastructure asset, the utility may retain different legal rights of control in the asset. For example, water efficient appliances and graywater systems attached to a customer’s home may become fixtures that leave the utility with little to no legal rights over the asset. On the other hand, a utility may retain control over permeable pavement and turf buyback installations if real property rights such as easements or liens are granted by the customer. Control may also be sought through contractual arrangements.

You can download Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s conservation easement agreement here.

Explore Strategies: Opportunities for Localized Solutions

This report dives into the big picture benefits of localized water strategies and how to finance them.

Read more

Incentive-based Instruments for Freshwater Management

Synthesis report and interactive tool that provides a detailed review of incentive based instruments for managing water; includes set of additional resources re studied incentives

Read more

Case Studies on New Water Paradigm

Study analyzing new water infrastructure in Tuscon/Pima County, AZ and Northern Kentucky.

Read more

Sources of legal authority

To finance distributed infrastructure with debt, utilities must have the requisite legal authority. Depending on the statutory regime and the distributed infrastructure to be financed, the requisite authority for some utilities will be clear. For others, the utility may need to structure financings to preserve ownership interests or control over distributed infrastructure assets to comply with the governing laws or even seek to amend existing legislation.

Generally, utility powers may be express or implied by such express powers. A local governmental agency, special districts, or regional water districts’ powers may be derived from:

State constitution

State statute

Local ordinance

Other enabling legislation

Utilities wishing to issue debt for the purpose of financing distributed infrastructure will need to consider whether their express and implied powers restrict the purposes and types of financeable projects, as the authority to spend money on distributed infrastructure may be broader than the authority to issue debt to finance distributed infrastructure.

For example, many statutes provide broad authority to finance facilities of benefit to the utility even if not owned or controlled by the utility. Some statutes, however, provide only for the financing of improvements to real property or physical assets related to specific portions of the water or sewer system, while others require that the utility maintain ownership or control over the asset. There may also be specifications that limit the term or the source of repayment of debt.

Additionally, most state constitutions limit the ability of government entities to grant, donate or gift assets or anything of value to private individuals, associations, or corporations. In some states, such “gift clauses” are broad prohibitions on any transaction of the type. For distributed infrastructure, which is frequently located on private property, this can present challenges. However, most states have interpreted their “gift clauses” to allow for exceptions for the government providing funds to private entities if such funds will be used for a public purpose or provide a public benefit.

To find out what your state’s constitution says about “gifts” click here.

Navigating Legal Pathways to Rate-Funded CAPs

Resource guide to help water and wastewater utilities navigate the complex legal frameworks that govern the use of ratepayer dollars to fund customer assistance programs.

Read more

MWRD: Intergovernmental Agreement

MWRD funds green infrastructure built by partner communities and public agencies. An Intergovernmental Agreement between MWRD and its partners help secure long-term benefits.

Read more

Taxability of Rebates: Federal Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of consumer rebates and other financial incentives at the federal level

Read more

Existing debt constraints

In addition to state constitutional and statutory authority, a utility’s ability to issue debt for the purpose of financing distributed infrastructure may be governed by the utility’s contractual commitments to lenders, credit providers, and bondholders. Holders of a utility’s debt generally require protection against the utility’s voluntary incurrence of new debt if that would have the effect of weakening the security for such existing debt. “Additional debt tests” in bond resolutions or indentures, loan agreements, and credit agreements require that certain requirements be satisfied before the utility may incur additional debt (often only debt payable from the utility’s revenues at the same or at a higher priority level).

Additional debt tests typically limit the purposes for which new debt may be issued. A concern with respect to distributed infrastructure is that improvements to property not owned by a utility may not constitute “improvements to the utility system.” If an additional debt test only requires that improvements financed by such debt “benefit the system,” financing distributed infrastructure should not be impeded. If, however, an additional debt test requires that such debt finance “improvements to the system,” it could constrain the utility’s ability to finance distributed infrastructure.

Holders of debt payable from a utility’s enterprise revenues also generally require that the utility establish rates and charges each year sufficient to produce net revenues (revenues less operation and maintenance expenses) that are a specified percentage of the debt service payable in such year (e.g., net revenues equal to at least 120% of debt service). For such purposes, terms such as “revenues” and “operation and maintenance expenses” are calculated with reference to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Additional debt tests generally require that the utility demonstrate its ability to continue to comply with this “rate covenant” taking into account the debt service or the proposed additional debt. If distributed infrastructure costs are not capitalized under GAAP but instead constitute operations and maintenance expense, “debt service coverage” will be reduced and satisfying additional debt tests may be more challenging. Learn more about capitalizing the cost of improvements to private property in the “Accounting issues that arise when using debt” section of the toolkit.

You can find additional resources about debt-financing localized infrastructure in the links below.

A Water Leaders Guide to Financing Localized Solutions

A water leader's guide to finance distributed infrastructure.

Read more

A Handbook for Understanding Natural Capital

From our partners at Earth Economics, check out this guidance manual for understanding relationship between economics and natural systems.

Read more

WaterNow Survey 2019: Accessing Capital Budgets

Survey of local elected officials and water managers - "Would you be interested in the option of financing consumer rebate programs out of your capital budget?"

Read more

State gift prohibitions

Because localized infrastructure is implemented across many locations, installing these strategies on property not owned by the city or utility is key. Using public dollars to improve privately owned land can implicate state gift laws, however.

If you’re curious about your state’s relevant constitutional sections, potential exceptions to prohibitions against the use of public funds for private purposes, and any potentially relevant state-specific case law, attorney general opinions or other local agency opinions on the subject you can search WaterNow’s 50-state database below. Simply choose the state from the dropdown menu and the relevant information will be provided. You can also select multiple states by clicking the “Search Another State” button. And select the “Email this to Me” option to receive a record of your search.

State Gift Prohibition Lookup

State Gift Prohibition Lookup

Answering tax questions that arise when using debt

Debt-financing localized water infrastructure can raise certain tax issues utility and city leaders should consider when using debt to scale their investments in these sustainable solutions. Two of the most common tax related issues — issuing tax exempt bonds and taxability of incentives customers receive to employ decentralized strategies — are discussed in the sub-sections below.

These sections provide insights on how bond issuances to finance distributed infrastructure can be tax free, the tax treatment of rebates and other financial incentives, and how other communities have successfully navigated these tax questions.

Taxability of Financial Incentives: State Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of consumer rebates for water efficiency and stormwater management at the state level

Read more

Leveraging rates, fees, and incentives

Overview of how the existence of a utility rate or fee can provide a lever to motivate private parties’ participation in localized infrastructure solutions

Read more

Taxability of Rebates: Federal Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of consumer rebates and other financial incentives at the federal level

Read more

Issuing tax exempt bonds

If debt issued by a utility to finance distributed infrastructure can be issued as “tax-exempt bonds,” the utility can achieve significant savings because the interest paid on “tax-exempt bonds” is excluded from gross income for federal income tax purposes because purchasers are willing to accept a lower rate of interest than they would require for comparable taxable debt.  Although the federal tax code provides a general rule that interest on bonds issued by state and local governments, including municipal utilities, is tax-exempt, there are a variety of requirements that must be satisfied. These are explained below.

Issuing Governmental Bonds. Generally, municipal utilities seeking to issue tax-exempt bonds for the purpose of financing assets owned and operated by said utility will do so through the issuance of “governmental bonds.” A bond will be a governmental bond and not a “private activity bond” if:

No more than five percent of the proceeds are loaned to a nongovernmental person and

No more than ten percent of the proceeds are used in a private trade or business (“Private Business Use Test”) unless (i) the payments in respect of such private trade or business are no more than ten percent of the debt service on the bonds or (ii) the financed property (or in certain cases other property) secures an amount equal to the 10% of the debt (“Private Payment or Security Test”).

Because these requirements apply to the entire proceeds of a bond issue, a utility may be able to address private activity concerns by including the financing of distributed infrastructure in a larger bond issue financing conventional infrastructure, although the ten percent thresholds are reduced to five percent if the distributed infrastructure is unrelated to the primary purpose of the bond issue.

Private Business Use Test. Private business use of a financed asset is any use other than that by a governmental entity or the general public. Ownership by a nongovernmental entity, leases, management contracts or preferential legal entitlements with respect to the financed assets can create private business use. The Private Business Use Test can present challenges for utilities when issuing tax-exempt bonds for distributed infrastructure that encompasses or extends into private property used in a trade or business. If, however, the financed assets are available for use by nongovernmental entities on the same basis as the general public, then the bond issue will likely fit within the restrictions of the Private Business Use Test and could be issued as tax-exempt bonds.   

Private Payment or Security Test. This requirement focuses on payments from the private businesses that use the financed assets and the security for the bonds, as well as potentially other payments directly or indirectly related to such private business use. A bond issued to finance distributed infrastructure would likely fit within the restrictions of the Private Payment or Security Test if:

There is a grant of bond proceeds to a private business owner without an expectation of repayment

Cumulative payments made with respect to the private business use do not exceed 10% of the debt service on the bonds

Weighted Average Maturity. Another requirement for tax-exempt bonds is that the weighted average maturity of the issue not exceed 120 percent of the reasonably expected average life of the financed assets. This limits a utility’s ability to finance distributed infrastructure assets with relatively short economic useful lives with long term tax-exempt bonds. However, this constraint can be addressed by combining short term distributed infrastructure assets with long term conventional assets with a long average life in the same financing.

Notwithstanding a utility’s expectation that the bonds will satisfy the requirements for tax-exemption at issuance, the utility will also need to take appropriate measures to track the use of proceeds throughout the life of the bonds to ensure continuing compliance.

Go Green: Muni Bond Financing for Distributed Water Solutions

A primer for water leaders on how to debt-finance distributed infrastructure projects and consumer rebates.

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Stormwater Retention Credit Trading Systems: Local Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of financial incentives for localized water infrastructure at a local level

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Taxability of Financial Incentives: State Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of consumer rebates for water efficiency and stormwater management at the state level

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MMSD: Bond Counsel Opinion

MMSD bond counsel opinion on debt-financing localized green infrastructure

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Leveraging rates, fees, and incentives

Overview of how the existence of a utility rate or fee can provide a lever to motivate private parties’ participation in localized infrastructure solutions

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MMSD Green Bond Framework

MMSD issued the first-ever climate certified bond for a combined wastewater and stormwater program in the United States.

Read more

Taxability

As explained in the “Issuing tax exempt bonds” section of the TIR Toolkit, municipal bond dollars are generally tax free. An entirely separate tax question can arise when utilities use financial incentives to motivate private parties to employ localized water infrastructure solutions:

Are rebates or grants utility customers receive for increasing water efficiency or managing stormwater onsite taxable income?

Answering this question from federal, state, and local tax perspectives can be a key issue when developing and scaling investment in a financial incentive program. Communities across the country have already grappled with these issues and provide useful examples for others facing similar challenges:

In Washington D.C., the utility’s stormwater credit trading program raised local tax issues for area nonprofits participating in the program, as the money they earned from the sale of their stormwater credits potentially threatened their tax exempt status. To address this challenge, the utility worked with other local leaders to revise their municipal code. For more details on this local tax issue click here. And click here to learn more about DOEE’s stormwater program.

In California, the State Legislature has permanently exempted rebates and other financial incentives for water efficient toilets, clothes washers, and certain types of recycled water plumbing from state income tax for both individuals and businesses. Click here to learn more about state tax considerations that might apply to incentive programs in the 41 states that collect income taxes.

At the federal level, it is possible that consumer rebates and other financial incentives are taxable income. Click here to learn more about federal tax issues, including arguments for non-taxability and options for public water agencies to structure programs to enhance the likelihood that the rebate payments not be taxable to the property owner.

Stormwater Retention Credit Trading Systems: Local Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of financial incentives for localized water infrastructure at a local level

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Taxability of Financial Incentives: State Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of consumer rebates for water efficiency and stormwater management at the state level

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Taxability of Rebates: Federal Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of consumer rebates and other financial incentives at the federal level

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DOEE: Local Stormwater Ordinance

Read about Washington, D.C.'s Department of Energy and Environment stormwater management ordinance that requires onsite stormwater capture for certain development projects

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Motivating Private Property Owners: Rates, Fees, Incentives

Primer on the role rates, fees, and financial incentives play in motivating ratepayers to employ localized water solutions

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How to Issue a Green Muni Bond

Playbook for cities interested in issuing green bonds to finance sustainable water investments

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Answering accounting questions that arise when using debt financing

Debt-financing localized water infrastructure can raise certain accounting issues utility and city leaders should consider when using debt to scale their investments in these sustainable solutions. Two accounting related issues — capitalizing the cost of improvements to private property and how to use the regulated assets approach to debt-finance localized infrastructure — are discussed in the sub-sections below.

Capitalizing the cost of improvements to private property

Broadly speaking, “capital expenditures” under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are expenditures for fixed or capital assets. For a distributed infrastructure expenditure to be an expenditure for a fixed or capital asset under GAAP, the expenditure must, among other things, result in the acquisition, improvement or creation of an “asset” of the utility. Distributed infrastructure on public property not owned or controlled by the utility, i.e., public non-utility property, and private property localized infrastructure may constitute an asset of the utility if the distributed infrastructure expenditure creates a “regulatory asset” under Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 62 or if the utility exercises “control” over the asset sufficient to satisfy the requirement of GASB Statement No. 4.

The requirements of GASB 62 are detailed in the “How to debt-finance localized infrastructure as a regulated asset” section of the TIR Toolkit, and through the links below.

If GASB 62 is not applicable (e.g., because cost recovery is not available), “asset” status may be achieved under GASB 4 if the distributed infrastructure program is structured to provide the utility sufficient “control” over the property in question. As a general matter, control results from the utility’s ability to “determine the nature and manner of use” of the capacity of a resource. This may consist of a right on the part of the utility to:

Directly use the capacity to provide service

Exchange the capacity for another asset or for cash or

Employ the capacity in other ways that provide benefit

Control may be retained through an easement or established by contract. You can find an example easement in the link below.

Bond Financing Distributed Water Systems

As extreme weather events exacerbate challenges already faced by communities across the US, this report, by our partners at Ceres, explores how to make better use of current market mechanisms…

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MMSD: Conservation Easement

MMSD enters into conservation easements with private property owners that install green infrastructure and receive a reimbursement from MMSD for doing so

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GASB 62: How Does It Work?

Video with Ed Harrington about "Regulated Operations" and GASB 62 and the potential to unlock an alternative way to finance localized infrastructure solutions

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The Financing Fix to Scale Water Innovation

This document is a quick 2-page overview of the new GASB policy guidance and how it opens up new channels to transform our water infrastructure.

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A Water Leaders Guide to Financing Localized Solutions

A water leader's guide to finance distributed infrastructure.

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Motivating Private Property Owners: Rates, Fees, Incentives

Primer on the role rates, fees, and financial incentives play in motivating ratepayers to employ localized water solutions

Read more

How to debt-finance localized infrastructure as a regulated asset

For years, water agencies interested in employing localized infrastructure were not sure whether they could access municipal debt financing for those projects. Without access to municipal debt, localized infrastructure programs and projects had to be funded by operating budgets, which meant that, for the most part, programs remained limited or else run the risk of massive increases in utility rates. As a result of a 2-year WaterNow campaign, in May 2018 the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) issued new guidance making it clear that municipal bond proceeds can be used to fund localized water infrastructure. Click here for a primer for water leaders on how to debt-finance distributed infrastructure projects and consumer rebates. Additional resources are linked below.

Click on the image below to watch a video with TIR Expert Ed Harrington on how this new GASB guidance works.

The new GASB guidance is a game changer. If even a tiny percent of the billions in annual capital spending for local water infrastructure nationwide is redeployed to distributed solutions, it would represent vast new investment capacity and a major expansion in the adoption of these technologies and programs.

GASB Statement 62 allows public agencies to book the cost of “business-type activities” as assets instead of annual expenses. These are called “regulatory assets” and can be capitalized by public water resource entities. The regulated assets approach is a complete alternative to traditional public agency accounting for capital assets. To meet the regulated assets approach and access debt-financing for localized infrastructure, local water providers need to have a governing board that:

  1. Is empowered to set rates
  2. Can set those rates at levels to cover the cost of the specific programs to be financed, and
  3. Can commit to setting rates in the future to pay for the cost of these programs

Virtually all public water providers are positioned to meet these criteria, and communities across the country have already used debt to make significant investments in localized infrastructure, including:

Seattle Public Utilities has used $2.2 million in municipal bond proceeds to fund its water conservation rebates programs as well as its low-income direct installation program allowing the utility to implement its market rate program on a regional scale and its low-income program citywide

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power pays for its turf rebate replacement program using capital dollars

Central Arkansas Water finances its conservation easement program aimed at protecting its source watershed with municipal bonds

If you would like to connect with an expert to talk about how you can use bond proceeds to scale your community’s investment in sustainable, localized water solutions, click below and submit an “Ask an Expert” request today. WaterNow will put you in touch with one of our pro bono expert panelists.

Ask an expert

The links below provide additional details on how to debt-finance distributed infrastructure. Check out the “Localized water infrastructure implementation strategies” section of the Toolkit to learn how to motivate private property owners to employ localized water solutions and much more.

A Water Leaders Guide to Financing Localized Solutions

A water leader's guide to finance distributed infrastructure.

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Public Finance Authority Water/Wastewater Finance Pool

Learn how cities, counties, towns and districts can finance and refinance water and wastewater projects through the Public Finance Authority (PFA) at AA rates.

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Seattle Public Utilities

Debt financing efficiency and green infrastructure rebates for private property installations.

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LADWP: Turf Replacement Rebates

LADWP's Turf Replacement program that provides rebates to residential and commercial customers who replace turf with sustainable landscapes

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MMSD: Conservation Easement

MMSD enters into conservation easements with private property owners that install green infrastructure and receive a reimbursement from MMSD for doing so

Read more

GASB 62: How Does It Work?

Video with Ed Harrington about "Regulated Operations" and GASB 62 and the potential to unlock an alternative way to finance localized infrastructure solutions

Read more

Accessing State, Federal, and Philanthropic Funding

In addition to operating budget funds and debt proceeds, utilities can access state, federal, and philanthropic dollars to help finance localized water infrastructure in their communities. These sources of funding are attractive because, although they may require more administrative work and advance planning to obtain, they can offer some very low-cost debt and, in some cases, grants or debt forgiveness.

Click through the sections below to learn about State Revolving Funds, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program, Housing and Urban Development’s Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program, and the role philanthropy can play in increasing investments in localized water infrastructure.

State Revolving Fund

The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs are a federal-state partnership that provides communities a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water infrastructure projects. Communities that make use of the State Revolving Funds benefit from below market interest rate loans and loan forgiveness (similar to grants) offered for both disadvantaged communities and often for “green” projects, such as water efficiency and green stormwater projects.

SRF Eligibility

Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) are managed at the state level, whereby each state receives new capital (“capitalization grants”) from U.S. EPA on an annual basis. States must provide one dollar of match for each five dollars received through U.S. EPA capitalization grants. States may use SRFs to provide the following types of assistance to communities:

Direct loans

Purchase or refinancing of existing debt

Credit enhancement

A source of revenue or security for municipally-established revolving funds

As a condition of eligibility for SRF financing, each financing recipient must pledge one or more dedicated sources of revenue toward payment of its SRF obligation. For its Drinking Water and Clean Water SRFs, each state must develop Intended Use Plans, which lay out the current and expected future pipeline of SRF-financed projects.

Watch the video below to learn more about SRF eligibilities.

Webinar: Leveraging SRFs

WaterNow’s June 24, 2021, Leveraging State Revolving Funds for Innovative Water Infrastructure Investments webinar.

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Overview: State Revolving Funds

Summary overview of Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs

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CWSRF Eligibility Graphic

Introducing the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the nation’s solution for low-cost infrastructure financing since 1987!

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2018 Annual Report: CWSRF Programs

2018 report of CWSRF programs for an overview for the projects receiving state revolving fund assistance, and additional information such as the EPA's expanded eligibility from publicly owned treatment works…

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CWSRF 101 Presentation

Explanations on CWSRF infrastructure banks, and project eligibility are addressed in the EPA’s CWSRF 2015 presentation.

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CWSRF Application Process Visual

This California Clean Water State Revolving Fund infographic delineates a construction application process from planning phase

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Annual Report: CWSRF Programs

This year (2015) the CWSRF provided $5.8 billion to eligible projects and will continue to grow, while prioritizing those with the biggest public health impact.

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SRF for private property localized infrastructure

Many states allow revolving loan funds to be used to pay for localized water infrastructure projects, including:

Consumer efficiency rebate programs

Meters

Gray water systems

Leak detection programs

Lead service line replacements

The resources linked below provide further information about using SRF funds to pay for private property localized infrastructure. You can also find a comprehensive set of SRF related materials in the SRF corner of the TiR All Resource Library!

Funding Water Efficiency Through State Revolving Funds

EPA primer on how State Revolving Fund dollars can be used to fund water efficiency programs

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ARRA GPR Compilation Report

Informational purposes with funding made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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CWSRF Environmental Benefits 2014 Report

Eligible entities have been able to upgrade and repair wastewater treatment plants, correct combined and sanitary sewer overflows...

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GPR Eligibility Guidance

Federal goals for green infrastructure, energy efficiency improvements, water efficiency improvements, and environmentally innovative activities are outlined.

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Policy Memo to Promote GI

The EPA recommends incentivizing GI projects through additional subsidization, interest rate reductions, and other methods.

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Green project reserve

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 requires all CWSRF programs to use no less than 10% of their annual federal grant for projects that address:

green infrastructure

water and energy efficiency, or

other environmentally innovative activities

These four categories of projects are the components of the Green Project Reserve (GPR). Click the link below to download a copy of the Environmental Protection Agency’s GPR eligibility guidance. 

Green Project Reserve Eligibility Guidance

EPA guidance on project eligible for funding under the Green Project Reserve program

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2012 GPR Report

This report comes from the GPR establishing a minimum 20% of ARRA capitalization funding going to the four categories under GPR discussed.

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ARRA GPR Compilation Report

Informational purposes with funding made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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GPR Crosswalk Table

Green infrastructure, Energy efficiency, Water efficiency, and Environmentally Innovative GPR infographic.

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Environmental Benefits Report of GPR Projects

Overview of the data collection efforts, assumptions and methodologies, research limitations, and results found in the comprehensive report of ARRA GPR projects.

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Q+A on GPR and Additional Subsidy Requirements for SRF

A memorandum on the additional subsidization of Green Project Reserve provisions and the requirements for GPR in SRF programs.

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Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) was enacted in 2014 to accelerate investment in local water and wastewater infrastructure. It supplements the State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan programs by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance to broad range of borrowers including state and municipal governments, private corporations, public-private partnerships. In 2018, WIFIA was reauthorized for 2 years and $100 million. This program is separate from, but implemented in coordination with, the SRF programs to provide subsidized financing for large dollar-value projects. A wide range of water infrastructure projects are eligible for WIFIA financing including energy efficiency projects at drinking water and wastewater facilities and drought prevention, reduction, or mitigation projects.

Click through the sub-sections below to learn about the types of projects eligible for WIFIA funding, how to apply for these federal dollars, and access additional WIFIA resources.

Eligibility

The WIFIA program offers loans with low, fixed interest rates and flexible financial terms. Borrowers eligible to receive WIFIA funding, including local governmental entities, can use the funds to pay for many types of infrastructure projects, including those aimed at:

drought prevention, reduction, or mitigation

aquifer recharge

water reuse

alternative water sources

As explained in WaterNow’s Innovation in Action: 21st Century Water Infrastructure Solutions report, localized water infrastructure strategies can meet each of these water management needs.

In addition, there are certain important program features that borrowers interested in applying for WIFIA funding should consider, including:

Minimum project size for large communities is $20 million

Minimum project size for small communities (population of 25,000 or less) is $5 million

WIFIA funds can be used to pay for a maximum of 49% of eligible project costs

Total federal assistance may not exceed 80% of eligible project costs

The term of the loan may be no more than 35 years following substantial completion of the project

Repayment may be deferred for a maximum of 5 years following substantial project completion

Projects must be creditworthy and have a dedicated source of revenue

Localized water infrastructure strategies can likely satisfy each of these considerations.

Additional information about eligibility for the WIFIA program is provided in the links below.

WIFIA Program Summary

EPA's summary of the WIFIA program aimed at accelerating investment in the nation's water infrastructure

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WIFIA Program Benefits

EPA’s summary of the benefits of the WIFIA program that is aimed at accelerating investment in the nation’s water infrastructure

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WIFIA Letter of Interest Checklist

EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014 letter of interest checklist

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Application process

Applying for WIFIA funding is a two-phase process.

Phase 1: Project Selection

In phase 1 of the application process, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces the amount of funding that will be available for eligible projects and solicits letters of interest from prospective borrowers. When EPA receives its appropriation, the WIFIA program issues a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) to solicit letters of interest from prospective borrowers seeking financing from EPA. In past NOFA’s EPA announced four priorities:

Readiness for a project to proceed toward development

Provide for clean and safe drinking water, including reducing exposure to lead and emergent contaminants in the nation’s drinking water systems

Repair, rehabilitate, and replace aging infrastructure and conveyance systems

New or innovative approaches including water reuse and recycling

For FY 2019 projects, EPA estimates being able to finance $12 billion in water infrastructure investments. The resources linked below provide more information about the NOFA and letter of interest processes.

Phase 2: Project Review, Negotiation, and Closing

In phase 2, EPA invites selected prospective borrowers to apply for its WIFIA loan. These invitees will then undergo EPA’s detailed financial and engineering project review, which provides the basis for EPA’s proposed terms and conditions for the project and loan. The applicant and EPA work together to come to a mutually agreeable loan agreement and term sheet. Upon approval by the EPA Administrator and the Office of Management and Budget, the borrower will execute a credit agreement–the legally binding document that allows the borrower to receive WIFIA funds.

Certain WIFIA application materials are linked below.

WIFIA Application Review Process

EPA's summary of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014 funding application process

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WIFIA Application

EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014 funding application

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WIFIA FY 2019 Selected Projects

Overview of 38 projects funded with WIFIA loans in 2019 to help finance over $12 billion in water infrastructure investments and create almost 200,000 jobs.

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Additional WIFIA resources

The WIFIA program provides a variety of additional resources to help potential borrowers understand how this federal funding may be a good fit for their projects, including the:

WIFIA Program Handbook

WIFIA Template Term Sheet

WIFIA 101 Learning Module

Attendee’s at WaterNow’s upcoming 2020 Tap into Resilience summit in Philadelphia, October 14-15, will also have the opportunity to attend a WIFIA training workshop with program staff to learn about WIFIA’s long-term, low-cost loans for water infrastructure projects. Participants will learn about the eligibility and statutory requirements, the application process, and financial benefits and flexibilities of WIFIA loans. EPA will share examples from its current borrowers to highlight how WIFIA loans can help communities finance sustainable water management and provide tips to help you be a successful applicant.

WIFIA Program Handbook

Handbook detailing how EPA administers the WIFIA program to help prospective borrowers understand the requirements and procedures for WIFIA funding.

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WIFIA Template Term Sheet

Overview of potential terms and conditions that may be applicable in a WIFIA transaction, including various options that the WIFIA program can offer.

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WIFIA 101 Learning Module

Self-paced, interactive training module designed to teach prospective borrowers about WIFIA financing.

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WaterSMART Grants

Established in 2010, the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) program provides federal leadership and financial assistance for the efficient use of water in the Western United States. Each year the Bureau of Reclamation allocates millions of dollars in grant funding through the WaterSMART program to support Western states, tribes and local water providers as they plan and implement actions to advance their water efficiency and supply reliability priorities.

Click through the sub-sections below to learn about what WaterSMART is, the types of projects eligible for WaterSMART funding, Water & Energy Efficiency Grants, Small Scale Water Efficiency Projects, Drought Resiliency Projects, Water Conservation Field Services Program Grants, and WaterNow’s WaterSMART Grant Application Support.

What is WaterSMART?

The WaterSMART program was created to address the Western United States’ serious water challenges – widespread drought, increased population, aging infrastructure, and environmental water requirements that all place strain on water resources. The WaterSMART Program funds local water management programs that seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, mitigate conflict risk in areas at a high risk of future water conflict, or accomplish other benefits that contribute to water supply reliability, among other  objectives.

Between 2010 and 2016, the WaterSMART Program contributed $137 million dollars to leverage $395 million dollars in non-federal funding from project partners. Of the 243 projects that have been awarded, 143 (60%) have been completed. Additionally, due to the close connection between water and energy use, the program is estimated to save 10.8 million kilowatt-hours each year, equivalent to the energy needs of approximately 1,000 average households and 12 million pounds of avoided carbon emissions. You can find more details about WaterSMART funded projects on Reclamation’s WaterSMART Data Visualization Tool.

There are 6 unique water supply reliability programs that operate under the WaterSMART program. Three of these programs provide funding for on-site, localized efficiency and reuse solutions: WaterSMART Grants, Drought Resiliency Project Grants (DRP), and Water Conservation Field Services Program Grants (WCFSPG).

Within the WaterSMART grants program, there are two funding opportunities specific to localized water efficiency programs:

Water and Energy Efficiency Grants (WEEG)

Small Scale Water Efficiency Projects (SWEP)

Check out the additional resources linked below. Stay tuned for access to additional resources highlighting WaterSMART funded localized infrastructure projects. In addition, WaterNow has an ongoing initiative to assist local water managers to apply for these grants – click here to learn more.

WaterSMART Progress Report

Bureau of Reclamation's 2010-2016 progress report on the WaterSMART program finding an expected water savings of 1.14 million acre-feet per year.

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WaterSMART Progress Report Fact Sheet

Bureau of Reclamation's 2016 WaterSMART program progress report fact sheet.

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Eligibility & Application Process

Entities eligible for funding opportunities through the WaterSMART Program are:

States

Tribes

Irrigation districts

Water districts

Organization with water or power delivery authority in the Western United States or United States territories

In addition, to be eligible, grant applications must be located in enumerated states and territories, which include those shown on the below map, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands.

In order to apply for funding, water providers must be able to cover 50 percent or more of total project costs with non-federal funding. Non-federal funding can include (but is not limited to): cash, in-kind contributions, state grants or loans, and/or philanthropic grants. For most WaterSMART program grants, cost-shared project must be completed within two to three years.

Funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) are available at grants.gov. Specific FOAs should be reviewed carefully as the application requirements change regularly. The application window for WaterSMART Program grants is typically open for two to three months. Application processes will vary for each grant opportunity however all applications will require:

A technical proposal that includes an executive summary, project description and evaluation criteria

A project budget

Overview of environmental and cultural resource compliance

An official resolution from the entity’s governing board

Complete federal forms

Registration on the System for Award Management

And registration on Grants.gov (in order to submit an application electronically)

The resources linked below provide further information about WaterSMART eligibilities and application requirements.

Example: WaterSMART FOA

Example Bureau of Reclamation Funding Opportunity Announcement. FOAs provide key information on the grant type, grant award ceiling, and how to apply.

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WaterSMART Federal Forms

Access federal forms required to be submitted with WaterSMART grant applications.

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System for Award Management

Access the registration process for the System for Award Management - part of applying for WaterSMART grants.

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Water & Energy Efficiency Grants

Water and Energy Efficiency Grants (WEEG) focus on large-scale projects that result in quantifiable and sustained water savings. Criteria also place a priority on projects that support broader water reliability benefits, including multiple benefits achieved through collaboration.

For municipal water providers, eligible localized infrastructure projects include outdoor water use efficiency programs such as:

turf replacement

smart irrigation controller installation

high-efficiency spray device change-outs

As of FY2021, applicants could request federal funding up to $500,000 for projects to be completed within two years, or up to $2,000,000 for projects to be completed within three years with a 50% non-Federal cost-share match.

WEEG project evaluation criteria for FY21 are included below. Projects that will not receive points under some criteria, e.g. implementing hydropower, are still eligible to receive WEEG funding. More details on each of the evaluation criteria can be found in the FY21 WEEG Funding Opportunity Announcement.

In FY2020, Reclamation awarded $40.99 million in WEEG funding for 54 projects. The application deadline for FY2021 funding is September 17, 2020.

Water and Energy Efficiency Grant FOA

Download the FY21 Water & Energy Efficiency Grant Funding Opportunity Announcement

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WaterSMART Federal Forms

Access federal forms required to be submitted with WaterSMART grant applications.

Read more

System for Award Management

Access the registration process for the System for Award Management - part of applying for WaterSMART grants.

Read more

Example: WaterSMART FOA

Example Bureau of Reclamation Funding Opportunity Announcement. FOAs provide key information on the grant type, grant award ceiling, and how to apply.

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Philadelphia Water Department: Greened Acres Grants

Learn about PWD's program that provides grant funding to companies or contractors to construct stormwater projects across multiple properties in Philadelphia’s combined sewer area

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LADWP: Turf Replacement Rebates

LADWP's Turf Replacement program that provides rebates to residential and commercial customers who replace turf with sustainable landscapes

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Small Scale Water Efficiency Projects Grants

The Small Scale Water Efficiency Projects (SWEP) grant is for small-scale, on-the-ground water management projects that that seek to conserve, better manage, or otherwise make more efficient use of water supplies. Projects supported by an existing water management and conservation plan, System Optimization Review, or other planning effort led by the applicant are prioritized.

Similar to the WEEG program, for municipal water providers, eligible distributed infrastructure projects include outdoor water use efficiency programs such as:

turf replacement

smart irrigation controller installation

high-efficiency spray device change-outs

The SWEP application is designed to be as streamlined as possible in order for small to mid-sized utilities to be able to apply and compared to WEEG, there’s less emphasis placed on quantified water savings.

Applicants may request up to $75,000 in Federal funding, with a non-Federal cost-share of 50% or more of total project costs, for projects with total construction costs no more than $200,000.

SWEP evaluation criteria for FY20 are included below. More details on each of the evaluation criteria can be found in the FY20 Small Scale Water Efficiency Projects Funding Opportunity Announcement.

In FY20, Reclamation awarded $3.3 million for 52 water projects. The FY2020 application window closed on March 4, 2020.

Small Scale Water Efficiency Projects FOA

Download the Small Scale Water Efficiency Projects Funding Opportunity Announcement.

Read more

WaterSMART Federal Forms

Access federal forms required to be submitted with WaterSMART grant applications.

Read more

Spanish Fork

Innovative water conservation program to install free smart irrigation controllers for residential customers already reducing outdoor irrigation by 17%.

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Drought Resiliency Projects

The Drought Resiliency Projects (DRP) grant is intended for projects that improve the ability of a water manager to continue to deliver water and power during a drought and should decrease vulnerabilities and costs of drought. Eligible projects fall into three different categories: increasing the reliability of water supplies, improving water management, and providing benefits for fish, wildlife and the environment.

While many DRP projects focus on large-scale infrastructure improvements, funding is also available for distributed infrastructure strategies including:

Constructing stormwater capture and reuse systems, including green stormwater infrastructure solutions such as rain gardens, cisterns, and bioswales

Installing residential graywater and rain catchment systems

As of FY22, applicants can request federal funding of up to $500,000 for projects that could be completed in two years (Funding Group 1) or up to $2 million for projects that could be completed in three years (Funding Group 2) with a 50% non-Federal cost-share match. Click here to get no-Cost, hands-on assistance to apply for a DPR grant. The FY22 application window will be closing on October 5, 2021.

DRP evaluation criteria for FY22 are included below. More details on each of the evaluation criteria can be found in the FY22 DRP Funding Opportunity Announcement linked below.

In FY21, Reclamation awarded $15.4 million in DRP funding to 18 communities.

WaterSMART Notice of Funding Opportunity

Notice of funding opportunity for projects that will build long-term resilience to drought and reduce the need for emergency response actions.

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WaterSMART Federal Forms

Access federal forms required to be submitted with WaterSMART grant applications.

Read more

System for Award Management

Access the registration process for the System for Award Management - part of applying for WaterSMART grants.

Read more

Drought Preparedness & Response

AWWA manual with step-by-step guide for preparing for and responding to drought related water shortages.

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Annual Report: CWSRF Programs

This year (2015) the CWSRF provided $5.8 billion to eligible projects and will continue to grow, while prioritizing those with the biggest public health impact.

Read more

Boulder Water Utility

Boulder Utilities Division used conservation and green infrastructure to combat drought and urban flooding, and saves an average of 5,000 gallons per household per year.

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Water Conservation Field Services Program Grants

Unlike the other WaterSMART funding programs, the Water Conservation Field Services Program (WCFSP) is managed by each of Reclamation’s regional offices and implemented at the local level through Reclamation’s area offices in order to advance water conservation and to meet local goals.

Each of the regional WCFSP eligible project types and funding amounts are different. Awards range from $25,000 to $100,000 and funding is typically available for projects that prioritize water planning efforts including:

developing water conservation plans

identifying water management improvements through System Optimization Reviews

designing water management improvements

improving application of water conservation technologies through demonstration activities.

Water conservation demonstration activities, in particular, is an opportunity for utilities to test out and gather data around innovative, distributed infrastructure tools and technologies such as leak detection devices, smart irrigation controllers, low-flow appliances, etc. If the demonstration program is successful, this demonstration program could then receive additional funding for large-scale implementation through WEEG.

Environmental Water Resources Projects Grants

The Environmental Water Resources Projects grants (EWRP) fund projects focused on benefitting ecological values, while increasing the reliability of water resources. Eligible project types include:

Water conservation and efficiency projects with quantifiable and sustained water savings that benefit ecological values

Water management or infrastructure improvements to mitigate drought-related impacts to ecological values

Watershed management or restoration projects benefitting ecological values that have a nexus to water resources or water resources management

The EWRP grant offers municipal water providers or their NGO partners/collaborators the opportunity to apply for funding that supports localized infrastructure projects that include:

Localized water infrastructure projects, including water efficient appliances, outdoor efficiency measure such as turf replacement or smart irrigation controllers, and green stormwater infrastructure, would likely meet one or more of these eligible project categories. Click here to learn more about the types of localized infrastructure and their water management benefits.

Watershed management or restoration projects that restore natural wetlands, construction or improving wetlands for treatment of irrigation water or stormwater flows, or other natural features to reduce water supply and demand imbalances or the risk of drought or flood.

For FY22, applicants can request federal funding of up to $2 million for projects that can be completed within three years. Applicants that have water or power delivery authority may request up to a 75% Federal cost-share contribution when projects have benefits that primarily increase water supply reliability for ecological values and are developed as a part of a collaborative process. NGO applicants must be capable of cost sharing 50% or more of the total project cost.

Click here to get no-cost, hands-on assistance to apply for an EWRP grant. The FY22 application window will be closing on December 9, 2021.

EWRP evaluation criteria for FY22 are included below. More details on each of the evaluation criteria can be found in the FY22 EWRP Funding Opportunity Announcement linked below.

Environmental Water Resources Projects NOFO

Download the Environmental Water Resources Projects Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to learn more about the EWRP application evaluation criteria and application requirements.

Read more

WaterSMART Grant Application Support

Through our WaterSMART Conservation and Efficiency Funding for Colorado River Basin Communities program, WaterNow provides western water decisionmakers with no-cost, hands-on assistance to apply for WaterSMART Grants.

WaterNow has supported a number of successful applications.

South Jordan City, UT received $300k in WEEG funding to implement secondary irrigation metering with estimated water savings of 172 AF per year. WaterNow worked with South Jordan City to identify and define an eligible project for funding, to connect them with various Reclamation staff members, to draft and provided them with application and budget templates, and to edit and review their application before submission.

Desert Water Agency, CA received $75k in SWEP funding to expand their existing grass removal incentive program. The agency offers rebates to users replacing turf grass with low water use landscaping. The reduced water demand in the service area, estimated at approximately 13 acre-feet annual water savings, will address aquifer overdraft and increase the resilience of water supply. In addition to many of the support services listed above, WaterNow supported Desert Water Agency (DWA) to draft their grant application. DWA is now applying for a much larger grant under the FY21 WEEG funding opportunity to further expand their grass removal program.

The City of Greeley, CO received $1.49M in WEEG funding for Advanced Metering Infrastructure with estimated water savings of 1,129 AF per year. Greeley had submitted an application for WaterSMART funding in FY2019 but were not successful in receiving funding, so they requested support from WaterNow on strengthening their application.

Application Tips

  1. Before applying, review the objectives of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), eligible project types and evaluation criteria closely to determine if your proposed project is a good fit for the specific grant opportunity. If you’re not sure, WaterNow staff and BoR Program Coordinators are here to help!
  2. Copy and paste the evaluation criteria from the FOA into your application to ensure you’re responding fully and clearly to all criteria.
  3. Review the application checklist (Page iii of every FOA) to ensure that you are submitting a complete application with all required supporting materials.

WaterNow is available to provide pro-bono support in applying for WaterSMART funding opportunities. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • 1-on-1 calls to explain programs, address specific project questions, and provide tips for submitting a competitive application
  • Connections and guidance on calls with relevant WaterSMART staff
  • Research on specific application questions (e.g. quantifying water savings or identifying your nexus to Reclamation)
  • Application and budget templates
  • And more, depending on what your community’s specific needs are!

If you’re interested in applying for a WaterSMART funding opportunity and would like WaterNow’s assistance, fill out this short form and we’ll be in touch.

Tap into Resilience: WaterSMART Funding Support
May WaterNow contact you to follow up?

HUD Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program

Section 108 of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a loan program, which can be used to address community resilience projects aimed at benefiting low- and moderate- income communities. For organizations looking to improve water systems, this includes waterfront fortification, green infrastructure improvements, and water infrastructure improvements.

Click through the sub-sections below to learn about how the program works, who’s eligible for funding and the types of projects that can be funded, read about example projects that have received funding under this HUD program, and access additional resources.

How does HUD's Section 108 Program Work?

Housing and Urban Development’s Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program (Section 108) provides communities with a source of low-cost, long-term financing for economic and community development projects. Section 108 financing provides an avenue for communities to undertake larger, more costly projects, where they may have limited resources to invest in upfront.

The Section 108 loan guarantee process is a 2-part process, including an application phase and a funding phase:

Application phase: An eligible community develops and submits an application for a project (or a loan fund), and the local HUD field office and Section 108 Office at HUD Headquarters concurrently review the application and make a recommendation to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Grant Programs.

Funding phase: The Community (or its designated public entity) and the Section 108 Office, as well as its Program Counsel, prepare the financing documents necessary to for the project (or the first project under a loan fund) to be guaranteed by HUD.

Local city or state governments may apply directly for the loan. Smaller units of local government must apply through the state. Funds are typically used to fill financing gaps in larger programs.

Section 108 assistance can be deployed in two ways:

  1. Directly by the community or its governmental or non-profit partner to carry out an eligible project, or
  2. Indirectly with a community or its partner re-lending (or, in limited circumstances, granting) the funds to a developer or business to undertake an eligible project.

Section 108 borrowers are required to pledge current and future Community Development Block Grant allocations to repay and secure the loan. In addition, borrowers must pledge additional security for the loan such as property liens, tax increment revenue, or other collateral.

Section 108 projects focused on community resilience can be tailored and designed to meet multiple elements of community resilience, including resilient water management, while addressing inclusion and climate change impacts. The loan guarantees can help recipients leverage limited public resources to catalyze investment in communities, especially those facing, among other challenges, persistent poverty and the need to increase community resilience following the impact of natural disasters. This flexibility of uses makes it one of the most potent and important public investment tools that HUD offers to states and local governments.

Section 108 Eligibilities

Section 108 loan guarantee funding is available to a number of eligible public entities including:
States
Metropolitan cities and urban counties (i.e., Community Development Block Grant entitlement recipients)
Cities with a population of less than 50,000 or counties with a population of less than 200,000 that are assisted in the submission of applications by States that administer the Community Development Block Grant Program

Projects to be funded under Section 108 must either primarily benefit low-moderate income people, aid in elimination or prevention of slums/blight, or meet urgent needs of the community.

Typical water resilience projects include:
Waterfront Fortification
Green Infrastructure Improvements
Water Infrastructure Improvements

Other eligible projects include:
Public works and site improvements in colonias
Rehabilitation of publicly owned real property
Construction, reconstruction, or installation of public facilities (including street, sidewalk, and other site improvements)
Acquisition of real property

For purposes of determining eligibility, the Community Development Block Grant rules and requirements also apply.

For more information about eligibilities check out HUD’s “Current Availability” database that provides information on existing borrowing capacity for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Entitlement Communities and States looking to apply for Section 108 guaranteed loans.

Webcast: Leveraging HUD Loans

Watch WaterNow’s July 21, 2021, Tap into Resilience webcast.

Read more

Webcast Slides: Leveraging HUD Loans

Download the slides from WaterNow’s July 21, 2021, Tap into Resilience webinar.

Read more

Example Section 108 Projects

Section 108 eligible projects include those focused on meeting multiple elements of community resilience, including resilient water management, while addressing inclusion and climate change impacts. Communities can tailor flexible Section 108 funding to meet the resilience needs of their communities. The loan guarantees can help recipients leverage limited public resources to catalyze investment in communities, especially those facing, among other challenges, persistent poverty and the need to increase community resilience following the impact of natural disasters.

While to date Section 108 projects have funded centralized water infrastructure, as the examples below outline, this HUD funding is available to help communities pay for localized, distributed infrastructure, as well.

With $1.648M in Section 108 funding, the West Canaveral Groves Waterline in Brevard County, Florida, will build a new 20,000-foot, 12-inch potable water line to connect the West Canaveral Grove area to the municipal water system and provide fire protection services, which will help to address lead and arsenic currently detected at high levels in drinking water at six homes in the area and to eliminate use of contaminated wells and hazardous septic tanks

The Mount Vernon Flood Protection and Revitalization project in Washington State, a multi-million dollar public improvement project that includes the constructing of a FEMA certified 100-year flood protection wall beginning at Lion’s Park and ending at its Wastewater Treatment Plant, leveraged $1M in Section 108 loans for the acquisition costs of the real property on which the floodwall will be constructed, demolition of existing structures and construction of a 1,650 feet concrete flood wall

To find out more, you can request program assistance from HUD technical assistance team here.

Additional Resources

HUD Section 108 staff provides in-depth technical assistance in the form of extended communication or long-term assistance to CPD grantees and partner agencies.

Organizations that receive funds directly from HUD are eligible to participate in the technical assistance program including:

States an local governments
Public Housing Authorities
Participating Jurisdictions
Housing Counseling Agencies
Multifamily owners/operators
Nonprofit organizations

Potential or current borrowers may also contact the Section 108 office to request assistance with the proposed projects, layered financing, application process, program requirements, and more.

Philanthropy

Charitable organizations can be another option for financing localized water infrastructure. In the sub-sections below you will find an overview of the role philanthropy already plays, information about who might be eligible for charitable funding, and an opportunity to make your voice heard on how philanthropic organizations can better leverage their contribution to scaling up investment in sustainable solutions.

Role of charitable organizations in financing localized solutions

In addition to state and federal funding mechanisms, cities and public utilities may also be able to access charitable sources for financing for localized water solutions. These include private foundations like The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Pisces Foundation, Water Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Spring Point Partners, The Kresge Foundation, and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Many of these organizations have formed the Water Funder Initiative (WFI) “to identify and activate promising water solutions through strategic philanthropic investments in the United States, starting in the West where scarcity and reliability of clean water are urgent issues,” and offer “a blueprint for philanthropy to advance sustainable water management at a scale never before attempted in the water field.”

Click the link below download a copy of WFI’s Toward Water Sustainability: A Blueprint for Philanthropy report.

Toward Water Sustainability: A Blueprint for Philanthropy

Water Funder Initiative's blueprint for philanthropy to advance sustainable water management at a scale never before attempted in the water field

Read more

Philanthropic funding eligibility

The availability of private grants or investments can vary depending on the type of project proposed, the location of the project, and a particular foundation’s priorities and theory of change. For example, philanthropic priorities in the north east include funding:

on-the-ground, place-based green stormwater infrastructure projects

telling success stories where green infrastructure has been deployed

efforts to make it easier for cities and utilities to finance these projects installed on both public and private property by improving funding standards, e.g., grant and loan eligibility criteria.

These priorities directly align with scaling investments in localized solutions.

Further, Water Funder Initiative’s blueprint calls for funding for data-driven decision making and accelerating innovation, among other priorities. Decentralized water infrastructure such as advanced metering infrastructure, onsite non-potable reuse systems, consumer-side leak detection devices, smart irrigation controllers, green roofs, and blue roofs easily fits within these goals.

Blueprint for One Water

This blueprint explores critical steps for developing One Water approaches.

Read more

Explore Strategies: Opportunities for Localized Solutions

This report dives into the big picture benefits of localized water strategies and how to finance them.

Read more

Toward Water Sustainability: A Blueprint for Philanthropy

Water Funder Initiative's blueprint for philanthropy to advance sustainable water management at a scale never before attempted in the water field

Read more

Getting water managers involved with charitable program development

Because widespread adoption of decentralized water infrastructure is still a growing concept, some private foundations are currently in the process of building their water infrastructure priorities and internal funding strategies. These organizations are interested in hearing from water managers across the country about their needs and how charitable giving can have the most impact in advancing the water infrastructure transformation. In particular, the philanthropic community wants the water community’s feedback on:

  1. Whether public water managers are debt-averse and why;
  2. How will a proposed project help underserved communities;
  3. Whether there is a need for additional place-based work or whether funding should focus on developing national decentralized infrastructure tools;
  4. Is there a lack of “best practices” for deploying decentralized infrastructure, and, if so, is that a barrier to implementation.

If you are a water manager with insights on these, or other topics that might inform where philanthropic dollars can have the most impact on building 21st century water infrastructure, fill out the form below to submit your comments to WaterNow.

Click here

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Explore localized water infrastructure implementation strategies

The implementation strategies sections of the Tap into Resilience Toolkit cover common challenges that arise when public utilities deploy decentralized strategies on public property not directly owned or controlled by the water utility, i.e., “public non-utility property,” and private property and corresponding solutions to those challenges.

Materials are revealed as you move through the Toolkit by clicking on the sections below. Under each tab you’ll find an overview of that topic, in-depth resources for download and further reading, explanatory videos, a searchable database, example ordinances and agreements, and much more. Additional materials are revealed as you move through the Toolkit. Sort the All Resources library by “TIR Toolkit” if you’re looking for quick access to a specific resource.

Explore for yourself to start implementing!

Public Non-Utility Property Localized Infrastructure

Deploying localized water strategies often involves the use of public property not directly owned or controlled by the utility or agency that is paying for the program, i.e., public non-utility property. This can mean public property owned or controlled by another department within the same city, i.e., “intra-city” departments or property owned or controlled by an entirely separate public entity outside of the utility’s jurisdiction.

Click through the below sub-sections to explore examples of public non-utility property localized infrastructure, to learn about the intra-city issues that can arise when implementing localized water infrastructure strategies, and to review case studies on how other cities have navigated coordinating with entirely separate public agencies to employ decentralized solutions.

Examples

Localized or onsite water infrastructure programs represent resilient and affordable alternatives to conventional infrastructure, capable of addressing a wide range of water resource challenges. Localized strategies that leverage public non-utility property can effectively meet drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater needs. Click through the sections below to reveal example public non-utility property strategies.

Drinking Water Solutions

Public non-utility decentralized water infrastructure that can address drinking water challenges include high efficiency appliances, onsite reuse, and graywater systems installed in city and other publicly owned buildings.

 

Stormwater Solutions

Public non-utility decentralized water infrastructure that can address stormwater and mitigate its effects on local water quality include bioswales, constructed wetlands, green streets, urban tree canopies, and other green infrastructure that can be built in the public right-of-way or in city parks and open spaces. Cities can also employ strategies such as green and blue roofs on publicly owned and other government buildings to meet stormwater management needs.

For example, DC Water uses green infrastructure distributed throughout the city to help reduce its combined sewer overflows by capturing stormwater where it falls.

The case studies linked below provide additional examples of communities using localized infrastructure to address stormwater management challenges.

 

Atlanta Dept. of Watershed Management

Plan to build localized infrastructure throughout Atlanta using public and private land that has already saved the City $15 million.

Read more

Boulder Water Utility

Boulder Utilities Division used conservation and green infrastructure to combat drought and urban flooding, and saves an average of 5,000 gallons per household per year.

Read more

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Public and private property green stormwater infrastructure already reduce combined sewer overflows by 60% per year.

Read more

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

SFPUC's OneWaterSF approach is estimated to save 2 million gallons per day of drinking water among many other benefits.

Read more

Wastewater Solutions

Public non-utility decentralized water infrastructure that can address wastewater needs and access the significant potential for reuse as non-potable – and even potable – water supply include advanced onsite non-potable reuse systems, constructed wetlands, and graywater reuse systems installed in city and other publicly owned buildings.

For example, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission implements a streamlined process that requires the use of onsite water reuse systems to meet non-potable demands for toilet flushing and irrigation in new large public and private developments providing the ability to reduce water use in a building by 25% to 75%.

 

Intra-City Issues

There are a few common issues or challenges that can arise when using water utility dollars to pay for localized solutions that will leverage non-utility property. Click through the sub-sections below to learn how to address potential roadblocks presented by your city charter, how to identify and coordinate with other key intra-city departments, and ensure public non-utility property localized infrastructure is properly operated and maintained for the long-term.

Reviewing Local Charters & Ordinances

It is possible that a city charter or other local ordinance could present a roadblock to a utility funding a decentralized water infrastructure program that implements, builds, installs or otherwise uses public non-utility property. For example, in San Francisco the City Charter did not clearly allow the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to finance projects on property over which the utility did not have jurisdiction. To address this challenge, the SFPUC worked with the City Attorney to amend the City Charter, which now, in relevant part, specifies:

the Public Utilities Commission is hereby authorized to issue revenue bonds … for the purpose of reconstructing, replacing, expanding, repairing, or improving water facilities, clean water facilities, power facilities, or combinations of water, clean water, and power facilities … for any [] lawful purpose of the water, clean water, or power utilities of the City…

You can find the full text of this section of the San Francisco City Charter via the link below.

San Francisco City Charter

In 2018, the City of San Francisco amended its City Charter to allow the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to finance localized water infrastructure on public non-utility and private property

Read more

Coordinating with Key Intra-City Partners

Identifying and coordinating with key intra-city partners is an important step in implementing a decentralized water infrastructure program that leverages public non-utility property.

There are a few helpful ways to identify these key partners, including:

Assessing which agencies within you city have jurisdiction over key public non-utility property that would meet the criteria for the planned infrastructure, e.g., your city’s parks department or the city department responsible for operating and maintaining city roads

Assessing which agencies within your city will also benefit from the planned infrastructure

Assessing which agencies within your city share common sustainability goals–goals that are often defined in a city’s master plan, sustainability plan, or climate action plan

How best to coordinate with identified stakeholders will depend on your local governance structure. For example, some cities may have integrated utilities, where drinking water, energy, and stormwater are all managed by a single department. Another city might have a local water department that handles drinking water only, with stormwater managed by a different local department, such as a transportation department. Having a local “public works” department that includes all the stakeholder departments can make things easier, but in most cases coordination across separate city departments is necessary.

The City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has worked with its intra-city partners to implement its green stormwater infrastructure program. Click here to learn more about how Lancaster city departments coordinate on green infrastructure installations. Similarly, in Eugene, Oregon, green infrastructure projects on public property are often implemented in coordination with other planned projects such as street improvement projects. Click here to learn more about public non-utility property localized infrastructure in Eugene.

Including identified intra-city stakeholders in the entire capital planning process has several benefits, including: 

Early identification of ways share the upfront cost of the project construction

Early discussion of creative ways to share labor and operation and maintenance costs

Early identification of additional project funders

For example, if a water agency is considering decentralized green infrastructure on city street medians, the local transit district might be willing to pay for some traffic calming benefits; perhaps a local flood control district will pay for benefits it receives from improved onsite water management, and perhaps neighborhood beautification justifies a contribution from the city’s general fund.

Click here to learn about how the Philadelphia Water Department shares costs with other city departments.

Maintaining Public Non-Utility Property Localized Infrastructure

Ensuring that decentralized water solutions on public non-utility property are properly operated and maintained is vital to securing the success of these strategies. Options for addressing this challenge include cost-sharing agreements that establish a way to pay for long-term maintenance of public non-utility property localized infrastructure

The Philadelphia Water Department’s Memorandum of Understanding with Philadelphia’s Parks Department provides a great example of how these agreements work. A detailed description of Philadelphia’s program and a copy of their MOU can be found here.

Coordinating with Entirely Separate Public Entities

At times implementing localized infrastructure requires coordination between departments in a single municipality, i.e., “intra-utility integration,” which is detailed in the above section of the Toolkit. In other instances, it requires cities and utilities to collaborate with separate utilities or cities in their region, i.e., “inter-utility integration.” It could be the case that both types of cooperation are needed. This is particularly true for regional utilities interested in deploying localized infrastructure.

Identifying and coordinating with key inter-utility partners is an important step in implementing a decentralized water infrastructure program that leverages public non-utility property. Tap into Resilience case study communities have successfully navigated this issue:

San Antonio Water System works with the City of San Antonio to integrate its conservation first water management strategies with the City’s sustainability goals set out in the San Antonio Tomorrow plan

As a regional utility, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) works closely with its 28 member cities’ elected officials and public works departments to pay for green infrastructure installations on city property not owned by MMSD by having monthly meetings with city engineers, coordinating on green infrastructure project work plans, and hosting a technical advisory team that includes members from all 28 member cities that fosters regular inter-city communication

As part of its One Water LA 2040 Plan, Los Angeles Sanitation District identifies multi-departmental and multi-agency integration opportunities to manage water in a more efficient, cost effective, and sustainable manner

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago provides funding for partner communities and public agencies that build green infrastructure on their property to reduce flooding while reducing load on the sewer system at range of $2,000 to $800,000 per project and secures the benefits of the projects by entering into intergovernmental agreements and operation and maintenance agreements with its partner communities and agencies

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Public and private property green stormwater infrastructure already reduce combined sewer overflows by 60% per year.

Read more

San Antonio Water System

By treating conservation as a source of supply San Antonio Water System reduced water consumption in its service area by 50%.

Read more

One Water LA 2040 Plan

The One Water LA 2040 Plan takes a holistic and collaborative approach to consider all of the City’s water resources as "One Water"

Read more

MWRD: O&M Plan for Bioswales and Rain Gardens

MWRD enters into O&M plans with organizations that install green infrastructure and receive a grant from MWRD for doing so.

Read more

MWRD: O&M Plan for Permeable Pavement

MWRD enters into O&M plans with organizations that install green infrastructure and receive a grant from MWRD for doing so.

Read more

MWRD: Intergovernmental Agreement

MWRD funds green infrastructure built by partner communities and public agencies. An Intergovernmental Agreement between MWRD and its partners help secure long-term benefits.

Read more

Private Property Localized Infrastructure

Deploying localized water strategies often involves the use of private property. This can mean residential property–both indoors and outdoors–and commercial, industrial, and institutional properties.

Click through the below sub-sections to explore examples of private property localized infrastructure, to learn how to motivate private property owners to employ distributed solutions, find ways to secure the benefits of private property strategies for the long term, and to review case studies on how other cities have navigated equity, affordability, and administrative challenges.

Examples

Localized or onsite water infrastructure programs represent resilient and affordable alternatives to conventional infrastructure, capable of addressing a wide range of water resource challenges. Localized strategies that leverage private property can effectively meet drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater needs.

Click through the sections below to reveal example private property strategies.

Localized Efficiency & Conservation Solutions

Private property decentralized water infrastructure that can address drinking water challenges include high efficiency appliances, smart irrigation systems, onsite reuse, rain barrels, lead service line replacements, and graywater systems installed on residential or commercial, industrial, or institutional properties. 

Communities across the country are already using these solutions to meet their drinking water needs, including:

San Antonio Water System which treats conservation as a source of supply implemented through a conservation ordinance and residential and commercial financial incentives

Madison Water implemented a city-wide lead service line replacement program to comply with drinking water standards

Austin Water has a 100-year One Water plan to increase local water supplies and mitigate climate change impacts

Moulton Niguel Water District’ has substantial financial incentive programs for residential and commercial indoor and outdoor conservation

Santa Fe Water Division has a local water conservation ordinance regulating indoor and outdoor use implemented through financial incentives

Tucson Water prioritizes conservation over traditional sources of supply through residential and commercial financial incentives and free programs for income-qualified households

Localized Stormwater Solutions

Private property localized infrastructure water strategies to manage stormwater directly where the rain falls and address stormwater management needs include blue roofs, green roofs, land conservation, permeable pavement, rainwater harvesting, and rain gardens installed on residential or commercial, industrial, or institutional properties.

With land development reducing permeable surfaces and increasing runoff challenges, programs to manage stormwater and mitigate its effects on local water quality have become critical for ensuring environmental health. Water leaders nationwide are already turning to these solutions, including:

In New Orleans, through the Community Adaptation Program the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority offers the low-to-moderate income homeowners in the Gentilly Resilience District up to $25,000 to install green stormwater management practices such as rain gardens, stormwater planter boxes, rain barrels, detention basins, increasing pervious surfaces, planting trees, and infiltration trenches on their residential property

In Philadelphia, through the Greened Acre Retrofit Program Philadelphia Water Department incentivizes commercial property owners to install green stormwater infrastructure retrofits on their properties by offering up to $150,000 per acre of impervious area “greened,” and awards more than
$15 million in stormwater grants every year 

In Boulder, through the City’s comprehensive water conservation programs residents and businesses receive rebates and other financial incentives for employing localized, community-based strategies such water efficiency fixtures and appliances and systems that reduce outdoor irrigation, and Boulder has a water budget rate structure to encourage conservation

In Seattle, Seattle Public Utilities provides consumer rebates for homeowners and businesses that employ water efficiency and green infrastructure strategies on their property, and pays for these programs using bond proceeds

In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Sanitation District’s comprehensive One Water LA 2040 Plan prioritizes distributed green infrastructure best management practices on private properties in the City

Localized Wastewater Solutions

Private property localized infrastructure water strategies to meet wastewater needs include systems that can safely reuse wastewater onsite or redirect it to other uses without centralized treatment such as advanced onsite reuse systems or graywater systems. Decentralized solutions such as private sewer lateral replacements and constructed wetlands can also effectively help utilities manage their wastewater challenges. 

Water leaders nationwide are already turning to these solutions, including:

In San Francisco, through a streamlined process that requires the use of onsite water reuse systems to meet non-potable demands for toilet flushing and irrigation in new large public and private developments

In Austin, through the Water Forward Plan, community-scale onsite water reuse will come to represent one-third of all additional water supplies that the city will bring online

In the Milwaukee area, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage district deploys localized green infrastructure on public and private property to help reduce combined sewer overflows

Golden, CO passed a Laundry-to-Landscape graywater ordinance – the first of its kind in the state – which allows for the reuse of graywater on-site for landscape irrigation in single-family homes

Graywater System Design Criteria Manual

Graywater System Design Criteria Manual developed by Golden, Colorado to implement the city's laundry to landscape ordinance.

Read more

L2L Operations & Maintenance Manual

Laundry-to-Landscape Operations & Maintenance Manual developed by Golden, Colorado to implement the city’s laundry to landscape ordinance.

Read more

Overview of Greywater Reuse

Report analyzing how greywater reuse can reduce demand and improve water system resilience

Read more

Motivating Private Property Owners to Employ Localized Solutions

Motivating homeowners, businesses, and institutions to employ localized water infrastructure strategies is essential to leveraging private property and reaping the multiple benefits of these strategies. There are several ways available to utilities to motivate private property owners, which fall into two broad categories: mandates and voluntary incentive programs.

Explore the below sub-sections to reveal details on implementing mandates and incentives and how to secure the many benefits of these programs. For an overview of building a conservation program for your utility check out AWWA’s Water Conservation Program Operation and Management manual.

Mandates

There are a variety of ways to mandate that private property owners employ localized water infrastructure, including:

Communities across the country are already using these methods, including:

San Antonio Water System’s Comprehensive Conservation Ordinance sets requirements for indoor water efficiency, outdoor irrigation restrictions, and water reuse for residential and non-residential property owners

Santa Fe Water Division’s Comprehensive Conservation Ordinance sets requirements for leak repair, plumbing fixtures, commercial businesses including hotels and restaurants, daytime outdoor irrigation, and water offsets for new development

Eugene Public Works’s local stormwater management ordinance requires that developers creating at least 1,000 sq. feet of new or replaced impervious surface manage stormwater onsite using a defined hierarchy of green infrastructure strategies

New Orleans’ local stormwater ordinance requires new and re-development over 5,000 sq. feet manage the first 1.25 inches of rainwater that falls on the private property onsite or, alternatively, developers may elect to pay a fee in lieu of onsite rainwater capture

Washington D.C. Department of Energy and the Environment’s local stormwater ordinance requires that development or redevelopment activity that disturbs a land area of 5,000 sq. feet or more must deploy localized stormwater infrastructure capable of managing the first 1.2 inches of rainfall and allows for a credit trading system as an alternative compliance mechanism

San Francisco’s Recycled Water Ordinance requires property owners that meet the defined criteria to install recycled water systems

The EPA has also compiled a summary of post-construction standards for stormwater discharges from newly developed and redeveloped sites for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. You can find more information about the overview here.

Incentives

There are a variety of ways to motivate residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers to voluntarily employ localized water infrastructure, including:

Ways to motivate ratepayers

In many cities, incentive programs that encourage private property localized water infrastructure  can be much more cost-effective than programs that consider only projects located on public non-utility property. This is likely why these programs are so ubiquitous.

Leading up to WaterNow’s 2019 Tap into Resilience Summit in Austin, Texas, we asked local elected officials and water managers – “Is your community exploring consumer rebates to implement water efficiency or green infrastructure?” Of the 75 respondents, 73% reported that, yes, they are exploring consumer rebates as a way to implement water efficiency or green infrastructure in their community with 32% indicating that they are leaders in this area and 41% noting that they have at least some programs but have room to do more. Would you like to be part of the conversation, too? You can join the Tap into Resilience community by clicking the Tap in button below and WaterNow will be in touch!

Tap in

Motivating existing property owners or developers to voluntarily install water-saving or stormwater-managing infrastructure and scaling investments in these cost-effective programs can, however, be challenging.

The TIR Toolkit sections linked below provide what you need to know to set up a private property incentive program, including information on:

funding incentive programs

leveraging rates, fees, and financial incentives including through bill credits such as Philadelphia Water Department’s Stormwater Credit Explorer as a way to motivate participation

evaluating whether your state gift laws allow the use of public dollars for private improvements

local, state, and federal taxability of financial incentives customers receive from their utility

marketing incentive programs and why it’s important to use social media to communicate with ratepayers

To explore even more materials on how to pay for these programs, check out the “What are my financing options?” sections of the Toolkit.

Leveraging rates, fees, and incentives

Overview of how the existence of a utility rate or fee can provide a lever to motivate private parties’ participation in localized infrastructure solutions

Read more

Philadelphia Water Department: Stormwater Credit Explorer

Learn how PWD's Stormwater Credit Explorer drives participation in green infrastructure incentive programs and helps property owners save money.

Read more

WaterNow: State Gift Prohibitions Database

WaterNow's 50-state database of state constitutional gift prohibition laws

Read more

Taxability of Financial Incentives: State Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of consumer rebates for water efficiency and stormwater management at the state level

Read more

Taxability of Rebates: Federal Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of consumer rebates and other financial incentives at the federal level

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Stormwater Retention Credit Trading Systems: Local Tax Issues

Overview of taxability of financial incentives for localized water infrastructure at a local level

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Securing the Benefits of Private Property Localized Infrastructure

So, you’ve decided to or are thinking about how to incentivize your customers to employ localized water solutions — either through mandates, rebates, direct installations, by reducing their utility fees, or other incentives. Explore the below sub-sections to learn about steps to take to ensure you realize the long-term benefits of these solutions and to read about communities already navigating these issues.

Steps to Ensuring Long-term Benefits

There are several steps every city or utility should take to ensure that they will realize the long-term benefits from decentralized, community-based infrastructure:

  1. Create accountability on the part of the individual or business who will employ the localized infrastructure for the long-term performance of localized infrastructure that the utility has helped to fund. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including:
  2. Establish clear performance metrics to be achieved by the utility. Performance metrics can include:
    • Acre-feet of water saved
    • Gallons of stormwater managed per square foot
    • Carbon sequestration or green house gas emissions reductions
    • Biodiversity
  3. Establish measures that allow the utility to evaluate the costs and benefits (including direct and co-benefits) of the localized infrastructure.
    • Costs will include both the direct costs of the payments to property owners or utility fee reductions and the indirect costs, which are the costs to create, publicize and manage a  property-focused program and the costs to track projects or manage service providers.
    • Benefits include amount of drinking water conserved, peak drinking water demand reduced, total water system demand reduced, volume of stormwater managed, number of combined sewer overflows reduced, concentrations of pollutants in stormwater runoff reduced, jobs created, or energy saved.
  4. Define the value of the performance of deployed localized infrastructure. As Philadelphia has done to value the impact of its Green City, Clean Waters program, this valuation can be in terms of:
    • Avoided costs
    • Social benefit
    • A combination of avoided costs and social benefit.

MMSD: Conservation Easement

MMSD enters into conservation easements with private property owners that install green infrastructure and receive a reimbursement from MMSD for doing so

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Roadmap for Sustainable Water Resources

This article outlines 4 key strategies for water managers, planners, and utilities to address the water problems facing the southwestern US.

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Blueprint for One Water

This blueprint explores critical steps for developing One Water approaches.

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Impact of Green City, Clean Waters on Philadelphia

Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia's impact analysis finds that green infrastructure results in significant economic, social, and environmental benefits to Philadelphia.

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MWRD: O&M Plan for Bioswales and Rain Gardens

MWRD enters into O&M plans with organizations that install green infrastructure and receive a grant from MWRD for doing so.

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MWRD: O&M Plan for Permeable Pavement

MWRD enters into O&M plans with organizations that install green infrastructure and receive a grant from MWRD for doing so.

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Water Conservation Planning Manual

AWWA manual on developing, implementing, and securing the benefits of water conservation programs.

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Communities Securing Long-term Benefits

Communities across the country are already taking steps to secure the benefits of localized water infrastructure:

Washington, D.C.’s RiverSmart Rewards program provides stormwater fee discounts for private property owners that install green infrastructure and manage stormwater onsite and requires that participants enter into a maintenance plan

New Orleans’ Community Adaptation Program provides grants of $10,000 to $25,000 to property owners in the Gentilly Resilience District to build green infrastructure and manage stormwater onsite and requires that participating homeowners agree to maintain the installation for at least two years after construction

Philadelphia’s Greened Acre Retrofit Program provides grants for non-residential property owners who install green stormwater infrastructure and requires the participants enter into a legally binding 45-year Operations and Maintenance agreement that is recorded with the property so as to bind subsequent property owners as well

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District provides up to $250,000 per project in grants for member communities, governmental entities, non-profit organizations 501(c)(3), or business working in partnership with their community in the combined sewer area interested in implementing distributed green infrastructure and in ensuring the long-term maintenance of the green infrastructure practices by entering into a contract or lease with NEORSD

Check out the Meet Communities page for other success stories from cities and utilities that have realized the long-term benefits of decentralized strategies.

Additional resources are linked below about the benefits of localized infrastructure are and communities’ already diving in.

Boulder Water Utility

Boulder Utilities Division used conservation and green infrastructure to combat drought and urban flooding, and saves an average of 5,000 gallons per household per year.

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Case Studies on New Water Paradigm

Study analyzing new water infrastructure in Tuscon/Pima County, AZ and Northern Kentucky.

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Change Making and Communication

How to talk about localized infrastructure with ratepayers.

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County-Scale Rainwater Harvesting

Report providing county-level analysis of the potential of roof-based rainwater harvesting for urban water use in the U.S.

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Madison Water Utility

Madison Water Utility implemented the nation's first city-wide lead service line replacement program saving $2.5 million in ongoing treatment costs.

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Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Public and private property green stormwater infrastructure already reduce combined sewer overflows by 60% per year.

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One Water LA 2040 Plan

The One Water LA 2040 Plan takes a holistic and collaborative approach to consider all of the City’s water resources as "One Water"

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Overview of Greywater Reuse

Report analyzing how greywater reuse can reduce demand and improve water system resilience

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Water Use Efficiency Data Study

Water use efficiency study conducted by West Basin Municipal Water District to identify effective and innovative residential and commercial conservation programs.

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Addressing Equity Challenges

When implementing either a mandatory or voluntary program, utilities often face challenges related to equity and ensuring that localized infrastructure strategies are accessible to and provide benefits for everyone in their service areas.

Explore the below sub-sections to reveal case studies and example documents on how other communities have addressed these challenges.

What is an equitable water utility?

In the course of expanding the TiR Toolkit water equity resources, and thinking more broadly about achieving greater water equity nationwide, we found ourselves asking; what does an equitable water utility look like? To provide a fully realized and inclusive vision, we put this question to our TiR Equity Advisory Group:

What does an equitable water utility look like to you in an ideal world? What are the specific elements, e.g., affordable rates, access to the same level of service across the entire community and for all demographics, participation in public decision making processes by all members of the community, utility staff that reflects the community, etc.?

The following vision statement is an amalgam of the responses we received, as well as additional research and discussions with partners. We respect that different individuals, organizations and communities have differing perspectives about what constitutes “equity” in the water space. And so, in the spirit of diversity and inclusion, we invite you to provide us with your own vision by filling out the short form linked below.

Click here

WaterNow Vision for an Equitable Water Utility

Most fundamentally, an equitable water utility provides a level of service – drinking water, wastewater treatment, or stormwater management – that guarantees all customers access to reliable, safe, and healthy water services. This includes meeting or exceeding all relevant water quality, treatment, and other public health, environmental and safety standards.

Other key elements of an equitable utility include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  1. Fiscal Health. An equitable utility must be fiscally-responsible to ensure long-term capacity and reliability; it has excellent bond ratings and clean financial audits enabling it to borrow at low cost; it is able to raise rates as needed.
  2. Continuous investment. An equitable utility is structured to allow for investment over time to provide for infrastructure upgrades, innovation and other critical expenses. Under-investing and deferring maintenance create free riders (those who can afford to pay but aren’t) ensuring higher costs and greater burdens on those least able to afford it at a later date.
  3. Fair and Affordable Rates. At the same time, an equitable utility ensures that its rates, while set at the level required for the utility to function, are affordable; and that the utility provides Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs), bill-pay assistance, or similar types of financial support, for income-qualified residents to avoid generation of water debt.
  4. Avoids Shut Offs. An equitable utility has methods in place, other than service shutoffs, to ensure bill payment and ongoing fiscal health.
  5. Proactive Understanding of Variances in the Customer Base. An equitable utility recognizes that many of its customers are tenants without the ability to know about or address leaks, control the types appliances they have, or how they’re charged for water services. It recognizes these distinctions and accounts for them in its approach to rates, disputes, billing, and other programs.
  6. Infrastructure Centered on Equity. An equitable utility builds equity considerations into decisions about the type and location of water infrastructure. It sites green stormwater infrastructure — with community benefits like enhanced green space and permeable pavements — in disadvantaged neighborhoods and/or those most prone to flooding; it avoids siting wastewater treatment with negative neighborhood effects (adverse air quality, odor, hardscape, traffic) where it will disproportionately impact communities of color, and those who have been subject to historic racism and economic disadvantage.
  7. Essential Service Mindset. An equitable utility views itself as a provider of an essential service, a  public good, available to everyone; instead of viewing itself as a business selling a commodity to ‘customers.’
  8. Accountable and Transparent. An equitable utility is open, transparent and accountable to everyone, not only those with the time and means to easily participate. Oversight and participation is a communal process with opportunities to amplify community voices in disadvantaged areas, and “ask instead of tell.”
  9. Community Partner.  An equitable utility is deeply engaged with its community, serving as a community anchor. It collaborates with community organizations, local leaders, city dept’s, NGOs, businesses and others building healthy, ongoing relationships; i.e., it is not primarily transactional in its approach to these partnerships.
  10. Effective Communication. An equitable utility effectively communicates with everyone it serves and brings the community along in defining the value of the utility, building trust and educating constituents about the decision makingprocess, where their money is going, programs available etc. Communication is related to transparency but requires a distinct set of skills.
  11. Local Workforce. An equitable utility is deeply engaged in the welfare of its community, and prioritizes having local people working at the utility.
  12. Diverse Workforce. An equitable utility recognizes historic barriers to entry to working in the water sector and works actively to increase representation, creating opportunities for women and people of color.

What is equitable localized infrastructure?

Localized or onsite water infrastructure programs represent resilient alternatives to conventional infrastructure, capable of addressing a wide range of water resource challenges. Investments in localized strategies that leverage private property can not only effectively meet drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater needs, but can also be more equitable when compared to conventional built approaches.

For WaterNow, water equity means universal access to secure, affordable, safe, and healthy drinking water, and wastewater and stormwater management services. Equitable water infrastructure investment should support the long-term sustainability of our waterways, water systems, and utilities. In its recent report, Moving Towards a Multi-Benefit Approach for Water Management, on evaluating multiple benefits of water management options Pacific Institute defines equity as “the just distribution of costs and benefits among stakeholders.”

Water use efficiency, distributed green infrastructure, onsite reuse, and the full range of localized water infrastructure strategies can provide water managers ways to locate needed water infrastructure improvements in neighborhoods and communities that have previously disproportionately born the impacts of challenges like combined sewer overflows, flooding, and drought and are also most in need of the co-benefits that localized solutions provide like urban greening, permanent jobs, and reduced heat islands. Because by their nature localized strategies are distributed across the community they provide significant opportunity to ensuring the just distribution of costs and benefits among water utility’s stakeholders.

Examples of equity-focused localized infrastructure programs

Equity-focused programs that achieve a just distribution of the costs and benefits of water investments are part of building strong, localized water infrastructure programs. A growing number of utilities are increasingly taking steps to ensure everyone in their service areas can participate in and enjoy the benefits of water use efficiency, conservation, green infrastructure and other distributed water management programs.

Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management’s strategic plan for implementing the City’s comprehensive green stormwater infrastructure program expressly includes an equity component to, among other things, ensure green infrastructure develops in ways that benefit local and surrounding communities that have felt the cost of poor infrastructure in the past.

Tucson Water provides limited-income individuals and families with free high-efficiency toilets, and offers grants (up to $400) and loans (up to $2,000) for rainwater harvesting systems.

Through its Green City, Clean Waters program Philadelphia Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters the City is building green infrastructure vulnerable neighborhoods where the co-benefits of stormwater management and urban greening are most needed.

Seattle Public Utilities has provided 6,800 free toilets to low-income residents in Seattle.

Phoenix’s rate design accounts for equity by charging a low monthly fixed charge with an “allowance” of water ample for basic household needs, as detailed in a 2020 episode of the Water Values Podcast

Westminster, Colorado provides high-efficiency water fixture upgrades in multi-family, affordable housing buildings, free of charge; in its first year the program replaced 83 toilets, 20 kitchen aerators, 84 bathroom aerators, and 8 showerheads across 72 residential units resulting in an estimated $15,000-$20,000 annual reduction in utility bills for the local Housing Authority

Click through the resources below to learn more about these and other equity-focused programs, and check back soon for additional examples of utilities incorporating equity considerations into their water management decisions. Does your utility have such a program? Share your story with WaterNow.

Philadelphia Water Department: Greened Acres Grants

Learn about PWD's program that provides grant funding to companies or contractors to construct stormwater projects across multiple properties in Philadelphia’s combined sewer area

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Seattle Public Utilities

Debt financing efficiency and green infrastructure rebates for private property installations.

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Tucson Water

Tucson Water's comprehensive conservation programs have saved 2.1 billion gallons of water over the past decade.

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Atlanta Dept. of Watershed Management

Plan to build localized infrastructure throughout Atlanta using public and private land that has already saved the City $15 million.

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One Water LA 2040 Plan

The One Water LA 2040 Plan takes a holistic and collaborative approach to consider all of the City’s water resources as "One Water"

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Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District

Participation in MSD’s grants program to install green infrastructure on private property and bring multiple benefits to vulnerable communities.

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Affordable Housing Water Fixture Upgrades

City of Westminster, Colorado, launched a pilot program to provide no-cost water fixture upgrades for residents in affordable, multi-family housing that is already saving water and money.

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Types of equity-focused localized water infrastructure programs

Low-income assistance programs that help implement localized water infrastructure use a variety of mechanisms including:

direct installation

grants

loans

rebates

Evaluating the merits of each type of incentive and adjusting the typical requirements of program eligibility can help maximize equity benefits for low-income and marginalized communities. For instance, many existing programs limit participation to single-family homeowners — excluding multi-family developments and renters — and require customers to be in good financial standing with their utility — a challenge if they cannot afford their bills and rate assistance programs are not offered concurrently.

Factors to consider when developing incentive programs designed to implement localized infrastructure solutions include:

Identify ways to build trust with vulnerable populations, e.g., work with community partners as ambassadors for the program, perform outreach, provide language translation assistance, and/or perform installations

Make program marketing available in multiple languages reflective of individual community

Coordinate with other income-qualifying programs and community organizations to identify target audiences

Expand programs beyond homeowners to include renters in both single-family and multi-family home

Combine rebates with low or zero-cost loans to eliminate need for upfront investments in localized infrastructure that can be a barrier to participation

The resources linked below provide examples of the types of equity-focused localized water infrastructure programs that take into account some or all of these factors.

Madison Water Utility

Madison Water Utility implemented the nation's first city-wide lead service line replacement program saving $2.5 million in ongoing treatment costs.

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Tucson Water

Tucson Water's comprehensive conservation programs have saved 2.1 billion gallons of water over the past decade.

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Aurora Water

Program to help low-income households become more water efficient saving 21.1 million gallons of water since 2012.

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Steps for building equitable localized water management programs

Water managers working to build equitable sustainable water management programs will need to take a deliberate approach to account for blind spots and identify ways to empower vulnerable communities affected or susceptible to environmental and health disparities to meaningfully participate in the decision-making process as well as the resulting localized programs. There are several ways every city or utility can incorporate a meaningful equity lens into their localized water infrastructure planning and programs:

  1. Measure and portray community disparities
  2. Provide local planners, public officials, community organizations, and foundations with the tools they need to engage marginalized populations and advocate for equity objectives
  3. Transform equity goals into targeted discussions on particular disparities that will be tackled
  4. Initiate and execute a visible public planning process
  5. Develop specific measurable objectives and achievable action items
  6. Eliminate barriers to participation by bridging language and cultural barriers, expanding programs to multi-family homes, creating flexibility for customers with late or overdue payments

Multiple frameworks have been created to assist local planners in utilizing an equity lens. For example, Climate Interactive created the Framework for Long-Term, Whole System, Equity-Based Reflection (FLOWER) as a way to examine the distribution of water management benefits as well as positive impacts on marginalized communities within a project or initiative. In addition equity-focused utilities will need to navigate how to pay for consumer assistance programs, which can include grants for water efficiency measures and lead service line replacements. States have differing rules and regulations on the types of assistance programs drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities can pay for using their rate revenue. The University of North Carolina Environmental Finance Center has developed a useful guide for utilities with detailed summaries of regulatory policy on the design and funding of consumer assistance programs in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Addressing Affordability Challenges

Households in the United States have experienced considerable increases in the cost of water and wastewater services over the past decades. According to a 2020 Boston University study, water and sewer costs are the fastest-growing category of household costs. Since 2010, water and sewer service costs grew by 4.83% per year. A 2019 study by The Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund found that rising water rates are most likely to impact communities of color. With these increases in cost, shutting off water service has become a standard utility practice for addressing non-payment challenges.

To be clear, no utility desires or seeks to shut off critical water services for any customers. Shutoffs are typically regarded as an authority required to ensure a utility’s fiscal health as a “last resort” for addressing customers far in arrears on bill payment. The federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic included creation of the first federally-funded water-related customer assistance program (the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program) with $1.1 billion available as of 2021 to help those struggling to pay their water and sewer bills. However, it is uncertain whether this federal assistance will available going forward. Local utilities—especially those serving at-risk communities—will therefore continue to be on the frontlines of providing clean, safe, reliable water, wastewater, and stormwater services while also ensuring those services are affordable for everyone. The challenge for these utilities is how best to address non-payment challenges without resorting to service shutoffs which can have devastating impacts, particularly in hard hit frontline communities.

Click through the sub-sections below to learn about strategies for avoiding water shutoffs and find success stories from utilities keeping rates affordable and the water turned on.

Strategies for Avoiding Water Shutoffs

Utilities can deploy a number of strategies to avoid shutting off water to households in frontline communities, including:

Customer assistance programs

Incentivizing water use efficiency, conservation, and other localized infrastructure through grant or direct install programs to reduce customer bills

Income-based rates

Life line rates

Tiered rate structures

Community liaison programs

Financial assistance donation programs

Forgiveness programs

Adjustments to billing systems to reduce billing mistakes

Improved customer outreach

Successfully putting one or more of these measures in place means evaluating income characteristics of utility customers and the impact on revenues that would result from assistance programs, partnering with local community groups, and integrating water assistance programs with other programs such as housing, food, or energy assistance.

Implementing these strategies are not without their challenges, however. Potential barriers to establishing robust alternatives to water shutoffs include:

Lack of funding

Legal restrictions on rate structures and prohibitions on using rates to subsidize one class of customer with revenues from another class of customer

Service areas with a large number of low-income ratepayers that would qualify for assistance programs with little buffer to spread the cost of across ratepayers

Lack of economies of scale for small utilities with high per-customer costs

Resources for overcoming these challenges as well as additional resources about avoiding water shutoffs are linked below. Click here to navigate to the What are Frontline Communities? section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Affordability Success Stories

Keeping rates affordable and avoiding water shutoffs are no easy tasks. But utilities throughout the U.S. have found success in meeting these dual objectives. Their programs serve as helpful models for others facing affordability and non-payment challenges.

In 2015, Philadelphia’s city council authorized creation of Philadelphia Water Department’s Tiered Assistance Program. Launched in 2017, this first-in-the-nation income-based rate structure was established in response to growing unaffordability for nearly 40% of PWD’s customers and shutoffs disproportionately impacting black and Latinx households. In a complete shift away from its prior approach, Philadelphia’s TAP program provides customers that need help paying their bills before they fall behind and go into debt. The program works by setting a resident’s bill as percentage of their household income and size rather than water consumption. So households with a monthly income of 150% of the federal poverty level, e.g., about $3,075 (as of 2017) for a family of 4—or those with a special hardship are eligible to enroll. For example, a family of 4 with ~$12,300 annual income would have a monthly water bill of $20.50.

Aurora Water created Aurora Water Cares to provide bill payment assistance so that limited-income customers experiencing challenges don’t need to worry about whether they can take a shower, do laundry or wash the dishes. Under this initiative, homeowners and renters who are past due on their bills can receive up to $125 in assistance once a year, with a limit of four total awards. The program is funded by individuals’ donations as well as one-time CARES Act funds provided to the city as part of the federal COVID-relief package. To implement the program, the utility partners with a local non-profit that runs the day-to-day operations including processing applications and determining eligibility. This partnership has been a staple of the success of Aurora Water Cares. Other foundations for success include the utility’s coordination with energy assistance programs and internal billing system with flexibility to accept donations. To evaluate the program’s impact, Aurora Water uses a data dashboard to measure shutoffs avoided and number of participants. Watch the video below to learn about how the Aurora Water Cares program got started by WaterNow’s 2020 Emerging Leader Elizabeth Gillitzer-Gallardo.

As one of the poorest large cities in the country, Cleveland faces challenges around affordability and access to water and sanitation resources. There are also gaps in community members’ awareness of existing affordability programs. The Water Champions Program, a grassroots program to connect at-risk populations to water and sewer bill assistance, grew out of local discussions, through the US Water Alliance’s 2018 Equity Task Force, about how to meet these challenges. A local NGO that provides housing assistance, and administers water and sewer utility affordability programs, CHN Housing Partners is also implementing the two-year pilot of the Water Champions Program with primary financial support from the water utility, the City of Cleveland Division of Water, and the regional wastewater and stormwater utility, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. The Water Champions program seeks to act as a bridge between community members and utilities, focused on water and sewer affordability programs within the City of Cleveland. Read the full Water Champions case study here.

To access additional resources about communities that have successfully avoided water shutoffs click the linked resources below. Click here to navigate to the What are Frontline Communities? section of the Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities module.

Quick Reference: Toolkit Resources, Example Documents, and Case Studies

The Toolkit covers over 60 different topic areas related to localized water infrastructure. But are you looking for quick access to a specific Tap into Resilience Toolkit resource? Sort the All Resources Library by “TIR Toolkit” to find all the resources included in the Toolkit subsections in one place. Use the Toolkit Reference Guide to get an overview of the Toolkit and link directly to particular subsections.

Tap into Resilience Expert Panelists

The TiR expert panel is a team of tax, accounting, financing, auditing, municipal bond, and water infrastructure experts including attorneys, accountants, auditors, investors, economists, and consultants to help make sustainable, localized water management a reality for communities across the nation. Click the names below to learn about our panelists’ areas of expertise. To connect with one of the TiR Experts fill out the short form linked below.

Ask an Expert

April Mendez, Greenprint Partners

April Méndez got her Bachelor of Arts and Psychology from Carleton College, where she graduated magna cum laude, and was in Stanford’s Executive Programs for Nonprofit Leaders and for Social Entrepreneurship. She has over 15 years of community and youth engagement experience, during which she recruited, trained and supported community residents to take action on local issues that mattered to them, designed and ran youth leadership programs, and founded two different youth empowerment organizations.

She is now is an MBA student at Northwestern University and is Co-founder and CEO for Greenprint Partners, where she develops municipal, utility, and community partnerships to deliver green stormwater infrastructure at large scale in order to transform communities, and collaborates on general firm management and strategy.

Craig Holland, The Nature Conservancy

Craig is the senior director of urban water for the Global Cities program of The Nature Conservancy. In this role, Craig develops global strategies to address water quality challenges related to urban development and leads a team to oversee those strategies’ implementation.

Specializing in green infrastructure investment and deployment, Craig helped develop private financing mechanisms for Philadelphia’s Green City Clean Waters initiative and co-authored the National Resources Defense Council’s January 2013 report “Creating Clean Water Cash Flows: Developing Private Markets for Green Stormwater Infrastructure in Philadelphia.”

Craig leads strategy for the Conservancy’s innovative collaboration, announced by the White House in March 2016, District Stormwater LLC, which finances and builds green infrastructure for stormwater management in Washington, D.C. Craig also serves as the President of the Board of TNC/Opti Development Partners, a joint venture between the Conservancy and the technology firm Opti, that builds distributed water quality and flood resilience projects.

Craig holds a BA with distinction from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an MS from Columbia University.

Ed Harrington, Municipal finance consultant

Ed Harrington is the former President of the Government Finance Officers Association and the former General Manager at San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Ed chaired the Water Utility Climate Alliance, focused on providing leadership and collaboration on climate change issues affecting water utilities and the customers they serve. He has served on three different accounting group Boards, including the Government Finance Officers Association, which he became the President of in 2004. He is a CPA, and serves on various nonprofit boards including Greenpeace International, and is now an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco and a consultant on government finance issues.

Eric Letsinger, Quantified Ventures

Eric Letsinger is the founder and CEO of Quantified Ventures, an impact investing firm that helps governments, social entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations and healthcare systems tap into the financial resources needed to sufficiently scale operations and deliver meaningful impact.

He graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in Urban Studies, and continued his education at Yale University, where he earned his MBA. Since then, he has gained over 25 years of leadership experience in government, nonprofit and private sector organizations operating in healthcare, the environment, education and housing. He has worked in cross-sector business environments, leading transformative public initiatives to drive social impact, and he speaks regularly at dozens of conferences, events and universities, including his alma mater. His company is currently designing and implementing a series of environmental, health and education transactions across the country.

Janet Clements, Corona Environmental Consulting

Janet Clements began her career as a water and natural resources planner in a rural California county, where she worked with government agencies, Native American tribes and nonprofit organizations on watershed planning efforts.

Afterwards, she went to graduate school and now has over 17 years of experience in water and natural resources planning and economics. She is currently working as a senior economist with Corona Environmental Consulting, where she conducts financial and sustainability analyses to evaluate the financial, social and environmental implications of water-related policies and programs. She is a noted economic expert in a number of fields within the water sector, and has conducted several studies related to financing and incentivizing green infrastructure on private property, as well as quantifying the benefits and costs of stormwater and green infrastructure alternatives.

Jeff Leuschel, McCall, Parkhurst & Horton L.L.P.

Jeff Leuschel has been a partner at the law firm of McCall, Parkhurst & Horton L.L.P. since January 1985. Mr. Leuschel specializes in the practice of public finance law, and currently represents numerous entities in the financing of public water and wastewater infrastructure projects, including the Texas Water Development Board, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, the Sabine-Neches Navigation District of Jefferson County, Texas, and the Cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth.

In 2011, Mr. Leuschel was recognized in the publication Texas’ Best Lawyers, published by ALM, Integrated Media Company, as the Public Finance Lawyer of the Year in Dallas.

Jeff Odefey, American Rivers

Jeffrey Odefey is a Colorado native with a BA in English and Art History from the University of Colorado, and MA from the University of Montana, and is a magna cum laude graduate of Pace University School of Law. He worked as a staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance and for Hudson Riverkeeper.

He is now the Director of Clean Water Supply Programs for American Rivers, where he helps lead a multi-disciplinary effort to promote integrated management of water resources through progressive regulation, sustainable financing, and policy reforms. His focus is on urban water systems, including green infrastructure, water conservation, and integrated water management as pathways to preserve and protect healthy waters and communities.

Jim Gibbs, Sperry Capital

James Gibbs earned his BS in Electrical Engineering from UC Berkeley, and his MBA from Stanford University, and now has over 35 years of experience in municipal advisory and public finance investment banking services.

He has managed and completed several financing transactions for many large agencies, including water and sewer utilities, public power agencies, renewable energy corporations and more. He is now Principal at Sperry Capital, an infrastructure financial advisory firm.

Jim Sparper, Greenprint Partners

James Sparber earned his BS in Civil Engineering from Valparaiso University with a minor in Business Administration, and then got his MS in Environmental Management from Illinois Institute of Technology. He gained 10 years of managerial experience between Rempe-Sharpe & Associates and Baxter & Woodman, Inc, during which he worked on infrastructure design and efficiency.

He is now the Vice President, Engineering for Greenprint Partners, where he is responsible for the development and implementation of stormwater management projects and services through water utility programs across key municipal communities.

Nicole Chavas, Greenprint Partners

Nicole Chavas earned her BA and MA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to get her MBA and Master of Finance and Entrepreneurship from Northwestern University in 2015. She began her career as an accountant at Grosvenor Capital Management, and went on to be an Operational Due Diligence Analyst at Man Investments. She then became the Senior Associate and Manager at Covariance Capital, a TIAA-CREF company, where she led operational due diligence, evaluated financial, operational and legal infrastructure, and spearheaded an internal impact investing research initiative to address increasing market interest in opportunities.

She is now the President + COO and Co-founder of Greenprint Partners, a green infrastructure delivery partner that helps cities achieve high-impact, community-driven stormwater solutions at scale.

Rose Jordan, Greenprint Partners

Rose Jordan earned her BA in Community, Environment and Planning and Environmental Resource Management from the University of Washington, and later her MBA in Marketing Management from Northwestern. She now has over 17 years of executive experience in her field, after serving as Vice President at Guenther Creative, an award-winning communications firm, serving as the Account Executive at Frause, another communications firm. Later, she became the Senior Program Manager at Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to sustainable economic development and environmental stewardship.

She is now the Vice President of Marketing and Program Operations at Greenprint Partners, for which she is responsible for development and implementation of marketing and communication strategy to drive growth for green infrastructure delivery partner, and the drive of business development strategy for growth.

Roger Baneman, NRDC Advisor and Retired Partner of Shearman & Sterling LLP

Roger Baneman is an advisor to the Natural Resources Defense Council, and works primarily with the Green Finance Center. His NRDC projects have included the potential use for clean energy investing of public capital market vehicles such as REITs, mutual funds and publicly traded partnerships, the organization of a network for green banks, and green infrastructure programs for stormwater management.

He was a tax partner at Shearman & Sterling LLP for many years and is now retired from the firm. He has a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA from Yale College. Early in his career, he served in Treasury’s Office of Tax Legislative Counsel. He was also an adjunct professor at Cardozo Law School.

Rowan Schmidt, Earth Economics

Rowan Schmidt was educated in Biology and Philosophy at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and has spent his career applying his education in the business realm of environmentalism. He has worked to fund mechanisms and policy levers to benefit the economy, the environment and society with utilities, federal agencies, NGOs and more.

He has been with Earth Economics for 9 years, during with he leads the organizations’ work around finance and investment strategies, and has helped catalyze policy changes from local to federal levels.

Scott Harder, Environmental Financial Group, Inc.

Scott Harder has forty years of experience developing and financing water, clean energy, and low-carbon solutions. He is educated in Civil Engineering, Finance, Mathematics and Economics, and is a published author.

Scott is the founder of Environmental Financial Group, Inc., a consulting firm that serves international clients, and provides advice to corporations, project developers, investors, cities, utilities, technology companies and financial institutions. He also serves on the leadership and advisory boards for a number of advocacy groups around the world.

Tom Innis, D.A. Davidson

Tom Innis is Managing Director of the Public Finance’s National Utility Practice in D.A. Davidson’s Fixed Income Capital Markets Division. D.A. Davidson delivers financial solutions through primary market underwriting, secondary market sales and trading of municipal securities and taxable fixed income investments, and municipal advisory services. Innis provides support for water/wastewater and electric utility clients to address their aging infrastructure needs. His experience in senior managed financings range from under $10 million to over $750 million. Over his career, Innis has senior managed more than $10 billion in financings in the Western Region.

Innis received a bachelor’s degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point and received a Masters of Business Administration degree from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Acknowledgements

The TIR Toolkit was developed and produced by WaterNow Alliance with contribution and support from local utilities and cities across the country, municipal financing and legal experts, and other WaterNow partners. WaterNow would like to thank and acknowledge the local utilities and cities across the country, municipal financing and legal experts, and other contributors to the TIR Toolkit.

Thank you to our city and utility partners

Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency

Camden County Municipal Utility Authority

Central Arkansas Water

City of Hayward

City of Hoboken

City of Lancaster

City of New Orleans

City of Tacoma

City of Tucson

DC Dept of Environment & Energy

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

New Orleans Redevelopment Agency

North East Ohio Regional Sewer District

Philadelphia Water Department

San Antonio

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Seattle Public Utilities

Sonoma County Water Agency

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Thank you to our industry and organizational partners

Alisa Valderrama, Neptune Street

American Water Works Association

Earth Economics

Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange

Jesse Albani, Orrick

Judson Greif, Greenfield Government Strategies LLC

Kresge Foundation (informational interview)

New Jersey Future

New Jersey Infrastructure Bank

Roger Baneman, Natural Resource Defense Council

Spring Point Partners (informational interview)

Stephen Spitz, Orrick

Thank you to our TiR Equity Advisory Group

Kristyn Abhold, Senior Environmental Scientist, Needs Analysis Unit in Division of Drinking Water, California State Water Resources Control Board

Dean Alonistiotis, Chief of Staff, Metropolitan Sewerage District of Greater Chicago

Marc Cammarata, Deputy Commissioner, Philadelphia Water Department

Hope Cupit, President & CEO, Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc.

Jessica Dandridge, Executive Director, Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans

Dana Eness, Executive Director, Urban Conservancy

Sheyda Esnaashari, Drinking Water Program Manager, River Network

Elizabeth Gillitzer-Gallardo, Water Billing Manager, Aurora Water

Heather Himmelberger, Director, Southwest Environmental Finance Center

Jeanne Morton, Director, Community Resources, CHN Housing Partners

DISCLAIMER

These materials are not offered as or intended to be legal advice. Readers should seek the advice of an attorney when confronted with legal issues. Attorneys should perform an independent evaluation of the issues raised in these materials. By providing these materials WaterNow does not endorse, either expressly or by implication, their accuracy or legality and expressly disclaims any and all liabilities and warranties related to their use.

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