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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Kingfishers in Texas need your voice today

The colorful belted kingfisher feeds almost entirely on aquatic prey such as fish, crayfish and mollusks. These energetic birds often watch for prey from a tree or pier piling and dive into the water to grab it with their bill. Sadly, the kingfishers’ food supply is in jeopardy as increasing human water demands and a long drought reduce river flows.

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Expires 09/02/2014

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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Aquifer feeding Plains shrinks

Longview News Journal, August 11, 2014

The chief underground water source for irrigating the agriculture-rich Texas High Plains is depleting at a pace that some fear will exhaust it far more quickly than anticipated.

Records examined by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal show the Ogallala Aquifer has dropped about 325 billion gallons every year for at least the past four decades, meaning the 40-foot decline in the water supply amounts to about a foot each year.

But at least two Texas counties west of Lubbock – Parmer and Castro – have plunged more than double that amount – 100 feet.

Water Board Delays Final Decision Over Marvin Nichols

Texas Tribune, August 7, 2014

By a 2-1 vote on Thursday, the board requested that officials in the Dallas-Fort Worth planning region submit a quantitative analysis of the reservoir’s environmental and economic impacts by Nov. 3. Though the board’s rules call for such numerical estimates to be included in every regional planning group’s water plan, the plan by the Dallas-area group only used qualitative metrics, classifying impacts as high, medium or low…

The board members, all of whom were appointed within the past year, said repeatedly that the board in previous years should have been more proactive in handling the dispute sooner, and that they wanted to examine and modify their rules and definitions for the future.

Such a move could signal a more active role for the board in arbitrating interregional disputes over water projects at the planning stage. In the past, state water plans were more wish lists than definitive proposals, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would be the first to approve or disapprove of a project by deciding whether to give a permit. But the availability of $2 billion in cheap loans from the Rainy Day Fund — which voters approved in November — has lent new importance to the plans and the role of the water development board, which will oversee the spending of the new funds. 

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Battle over land, water

Denton RC, August 7, 2014

The Texas Water Development Board met Thursday in Austin to consider the inter-regional conflict between two regional water plans involving the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in northeast Texas.

In a 2-1 decision, the board requested that North Texas advocates of the reservoir conduct a quantifiable analysis of projected economic costs to the five counties where the reservoir would be located. The report must be completed before a Nov. 3 deadline, when the board meets to make its final recommendations.

The board’s action represents the latest step in the fight between reservoir advocates, who say North Texas will need new water sources in years to come, and opponents who say the lake will displace too many people and destroy too many habitats for plants and wildlife.

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