Utility Leaders Morning at WEFTEC Addresses Affordability Challenges

(September 25, 2019) – NACWA partnered with the Water Environment Federation (WEF) to jointly host the annual Utility Leaders Morning at WEFTEC2019 on September 24, bringing together clean water utility leaders from across the country.

The topic of discussion this year focused on affordability challenges and how utility sector leaders can continue to make needed investments in their systems while also acknowledging the burden of higher rates on low income populations.  Speakers on the panel included authors from the recent joint affordability report from NACWA, WEF and the American Water Works Association (AWWA), Radhika Fox, CEO of the US Water Alliance, and Andrew Sawyers, Director of the Office of Wastewater Management at EPA. 

Panelists focused on the need for changes to EPA’s existing affordability guidance to account for more “real world” analysis of actual affordability challenges in local communities, including the impacts of higher rates on the lowest income households and the need for utilities to utilize cash flow forecasting for future expenditures.  There was also discussion of the need for utilities to do extensive community outreach and help foster wide stakeholder engagement over rates and affordability concerns to ensure there is transparency and broad understanding with local communities over these issues. 

Sawyers noted that EPA is committed to addressing these challenges and updating its approach to affordability in the coming months, with the potential of draft document available for public comment later this year or early 2020. 

NACWA will continue to engage closely with its water sector partners and EPA as discussion over new affordability considerations move forward. 

NACWA also congratulates the more than 40 Water Resources Utility of the Future award recipients - an annual awards program highlighting clean water agency innovation and resource recovery that is jointly convened by WEF, WateReuse, NACWA and WRF - during WEFTEC.

Members with questions can contact Nathan Gardner-Andrews, NACWA’s Chief Advocacy Officer.