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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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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Typical Fort Worth water and sewer bill may rise $3.31 a month

Star Telegram, August 21, 2014

Water rates for the typical Fort Worth resident could rise by $2.11 and sewer by $1.20 a month in the upcoming fiscal year under the proposed city budget, officials said today.

The increase continues a five-year effort by the city to make the water department less dependent on residents’ water usage for its revenue. This is the second year of that plan, city officials said at today’s fiscal year 2015 budget workshop. [...]

“If our citizens can just be patient and understand they aren’t being penalized for using less water, that they really are going realize some savings, especially in the future, for all their conservation efforts,” said Councilman Danny Scarth.

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