Designing Water Rate Structures for Conservation and Revenue Stability

February 2014

Water pricing can be one of the most effective methods to driving conservation and it is also the primary mechanism for recovering the revenue that a water utility needs to protect public health and the environment.  The Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina and the Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter have written a report to help Texas water utilities use their water rates and financial policies to encourage customers to reduce their water use while maintaining the financial viability of the utility.

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Webinar Information:  UNC and the Sierra Club hosted a webinar on March 19 that focused on the findings and recommendations of our new report that explores the relationship between water pricing, water use, and revenue stability in the State of Texas.  The webinar addresses how utilities can strike a balance between conservation and revenue stability and introduce rate structures, billing options, and financial practices that will help utilities advance water conservation objectives without undercutting needed revenue stability.


Desalination: Is it Worth its Salt?

November 2013

Desalination is often viewed as a solution to many water supply problems and is often hailed as a ‘drought resistant’ supply. This report explores the environmental, energy, and economic issues surrounding desalination and provides an overview of desalination activities in Texas.

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Financing Sustainable Water: Tools for Solving the Revenue/Conservation Paradox

October 28, 2014

There are many reasons to get excited about water conservation. However, one big question that water utilities often confront is how can a utility sustain itself financially if it encourages its customers to buy less of its product? Solutions to this challenge don’t lend themselves to quick and easy explanations, which is why the Texas […]

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Deaths of tiny clams in Galveston Bay may portend problems: Ongoing study finds salinity up, indicating effects of long drought

Houston Chronicle, October 24, 2014

BEACH CITY – From the boat slips of this Chambers County hamlet, Galveston Bay looks just as beautiful as ever, with the sun rising from the flat-line horizon to cast a greenish-blue tint on the calm waters.

But the view masks a troubling reality: The bay isn’t as alive as it once was.

Scientists are finding fewer rangia clams in a northeast inlet of the bay, suggesting that not enough fresh water is flowing from the Trinity River to protect the ecological health of a drought-plagued state’s most bountiful estuary.

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The Real Relationship Between Conservation and Rising Water Rates

National Geographic NewsWatch, October 5, 2014

A number of articles have been published recently which report on rising water rates across the U.S., pointing fingers firmly at dropping national water demand – and the efficient fixtures and behaviors driving that drop – as the reason.

While this discussion brings much-needed attention to the infrastructure investments that are required to sustain our water systems, the focus on conservation as the primary culprit behind the increasing cost of water is inaccurate and misleading. Furthermore, this misrepresentation of the relationship between water conservation and rates is detrimental to efforts to ensure that consumers use water wisely and guarantee a long-term, reliable and affordable supply of fresh water in their communities.

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