Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
December 2020

Growing Options for Shrinking Cities

Journal AWWA Cover

When people and industries leave a community, water utilities face the potential loss of revenue from departing customers and the cost and issues associated with maintaining excess system capacity.

Water systems seek to (1) ensure affordability, (2) maintain high service and quality, and (3) sustain fiscal viability; this creates a trilemma for shrinking cities that can ensure only two of the three.

To meet challenges, water service providers in shrinking cities need flexible approaches, such as downsizing, diversifying revenue sources, consolidating with other systems, or privatizing; absent such changes, the federal or state governments must step in.