NACWA’s members gathered in Tampa, FL this week to explore the intersection between the affordability challenges their communities face, and the continued drive to innovate and explore new approaches to address water quality. Kicking off the 2017 Winter Conference General Session, a roundtable discussion examined the appropriate role for the Federal Government in providing assistance to communities and ratepayers struggling to meet the rising cost of water services. Kishia Powell, NACWA Board Member and Commissioner for the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management, Palencia Mobley, Deputy Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, and David Denard, Director of Environmental Services for the Jefferson County Commission in Birmingham provided perspectives on the challenges their utilities face, and the assistance programs that have been developed to help low-income and other disadvantaged customers. While it was clear that utilities should have “skin in the game” when addressing the sector’s funding and affordability challenges, there was consensus that the Federal Government is an important partner that must contribute to the solution.
Day two of the General Session started with a tale of three cities – Boise, ID, Monterey, CA and Richmond, VA – and the innovative water quality and quantity projects being led by their clean water utilities. These utilities demonstrated that while finding a more cost-effective solution can often be a driving force, there is a range of other reasons why a utility may seek to move away from more traditional approaches.
The new political landscape in Washington, DC and the implications and opportunities for the clean water community influenced all the discussions throughout the conference, including the NACWA Board of Directors meeting on Saturday and the Standing Committee meetings.