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: Building Better Water Rates in an Uncertain World

Houston, TX & Dallas, TX
November 12 & 13
9:30 AM - 2:30 PM

Developing rate structures that successfully balance revenue management, resource efficiency and fiscal sustainability is becoming more challenging than ever in a world of scarce supply, volatile weather and declining demand. Join us to learn from experts about the newest resources and strategies that can help water managers to navigate these challenges.

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Reservoir Plan to Be Focus of Contested Case Hearing

Texas Tribune, September 24, 2014

Texas regulators on Wednesday will consider a proposal for a Fannin County reservoir that could be one of the last to be built in the state in the coming decades.

Dallas-area water planning officials are seeking the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s approval to build the 16,500-acre Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir on a tributary of the Red River near the state’s border with Oklahoma. The lake would create a new water supply source for the North Texas Municipal Water District, which serves about 1.6 million people — a customer base that is expected to double in the next 20 to 30 years. (Customers include Dallas suburbs like Plano, Richardson and McKinney.)

The proposed Bois d’Arc lake is one of a handful of reservoirs that water planning and policy experts think could still be built in Texas in the next several decades. After the state built dozens of lakes west of Interstate 35 following the historic drought of the 1950s, many are now less than half full, prompting planners to consider looking for water underground or focus more on conservation.

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Planning for future water use a conundrum for Houston

Houston Chronicle, September 8, 2014

Beneath Houston, miles of the city’s aging water mains are leaking billions of gallons each year. The repairs will require years of work and millions of dollars.

Officials, meanwhile, would like residents to take shorter showers and use their sprinklers less often – a conservation ethic that could mean less revenue for the utility tasked with fixing the old pipes.

So what’s a city to do? It’s a conundrum facing Houston and other cities across drought-prone Texas as they manage an invaluable but limited resource and the demands of a growing population.

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A Tale of 2 Water Districts: 1 Aquifer, 2 Strategies

Texas Tribune, September 3, 2014

A decade ago, prospective water marketers easily secured the rights to pump more than 20 billion gallons of water annually from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Central Texas’ Burleson County. The company now holding those rights, BlueWater, is negotiating a $3 billion deal to send much of that water to San Antonio.

In nearby Bastrop and Lee counties, two other prospective water marketers, Forestar and End Op, have their eye on the same aquifer and hope to sell water to growing communities near Austin. But after years of legal and administrative battles, they have yet to secure water rights they say they need.

Why the difference? In Burleson County (along with part of Milam County), the Carrizo-Wilcox is regulated by the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District. In Bastrop and Lee counties, the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District is in charge.

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Opinion: Protect freshwater flows to the coast

San Antonio Express News, September 2, 2014

Protecting the habitats that support [...] outdoors experiences has always been a priority for me and should be a priority for all of us. One of the looming threats to saltwater fishing on the coast is a lack of fresh water flowing in our rivers. The mix of fresh and salt water in estuaries such as Aransas Bay is critical for many of the species saltwater anglers love to catch — redfish, speckled trout, black drum and flounder, among them. A reliable supply of fresh water is necessary to sustain the nursery grounds that Texas bays provide for juvenile fish, to enhance coastal habitat for waterfowl and to support the long-term health of the Gulf ecosystem.

But in fast-growing Texas, guaranteed sources of fresh water for the coast are in short supply. The state long ago doled out more water rights than there is water in some rivers — at least during droughts. These days, it seems like Texas is pretty much always in a drought.

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