Both climate risk and race are factors that may affect municipal bond yields, yet each has received relatively limited empirical research attention. The authors analyzed >712,000 municipal bonds representing nearly 2 trillion USD in par outstanding, focusing on credit spread or the difference between a debt issuer’s interest cost to borrow and a benchmark “risk-free” municipal rate. The authors' combined findings indicate a systemic mispricing of risk in the municipal bond market, where race impacts the cost of capital, and climate does not.
Households that cannot afford their water bills may lose access to drinking water and wastewater services. This study seeks to quantify how many households may struggle to pay for water services across 787 of the largest drinking water providers in the United States. It finds that basic water services are unaffordable for 17% of households analyzed (28.3 million persons). The authors select 6,000 gallons per month as sufficient to meet basic needs and define undue hardship as spending more than 4.6% of household income (one day of labor each month) to pay for water services.
The 2022 Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum explored what must be done to ensure the water sector becomes more resilient to water-related disasters. How can communities navigate and prepare for the impacts of increasingly common water-related disasters. How do we reconcile different values as individuals, businesses, and government negotiate who receives resources to mitigate, adapt, and recover?
Technology Adoption at Public Agencies: Identifying Challenges and Building Opportunities to Modernize Public Water Data Infrastructure
Modernizing public agency water data depends not only on technology adoption, but also on transformation of how data are managed, shared, and used for decision-making. The Duke Internet of Water (IoW) Technology Adoption Program (TAP) addresses both. This report details efforts by IoW to identify challenges faced by public agencies and recommends a technology adoption roadmap based on nationwide surveys and interviews, best practices identified by public interest technologists, and the principles of modern data infrastructure, along with a case study on the New Mexico Water Data Initiative.
A team of researchers from Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering; Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability; and the Nicholas School of the Environment assessed the finances of 301 North Carolina water utilities and identified a significant and growing group of communities facing a conflicting dilemma of water affordability and utility cost recovery.
Water affordability is a growing concern, with inflation, aging infrastructure, source water protection, climate change, and other factors pushing up the cost of providing water. Customer assistance program (CAP) rate discounts provide needed assistance but may not be sufficient to ensure that water services are affordable. Rather than relying on one approach, such as CAPs, a combination of approaches might be optimal for addressing water affordability issues.
States and the federal government invest in water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure by providing subsidized loans and other financial assistance through State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs. The funds are capitalized with federal grants, state contributions, leveraged bonds, and loan repayments. Because the programs largely provide loans rather than grants, the repayment of principal and interest replenishes the pool of capital to finance infrastructure over time. Loan repayments are now the largest source of capital for SRFs.
Toward a National Water Affordability Strategy: Report from the Aspen-Nicholas Roundtable Series on Water Affordability
The Aspen Institute – Nicholas Institute Roundtable Series on Water Affordability convened U.S. water leaders through the fall and winter of 2021 and into January of 2022, to address one of the nation’s most pressing water challenges: ensuring that water services are affordable for all households and communities. With almost 50,000 community water systems across the U.S., developing systemic solutions is no easy task, but it can and must be done.
The cost of providing water services is increasing, placing greater financial burdens on individual households and utilities. Five metrics were calculated at multiple volumes of water usage and were applied to 1791 utilities, estimating bills from 2020 rates data, to gauge financial burdens in four states. More than a fifth of the population in 77% of utilities was experiencing poverty, suggesting widespread poverty is a major contributor to utility financial capability challenges.
Eleven utilities from across the United States were studied to understand the pandemic's effects on water consumption and utility revenues.
Most utilities in the study saw an overall increase in water consumption with a rise in residential demand that offset declines in nonresidential demand.
Most utilities in the study experienced increased revenues in 2020 compared with previous years, largely due to rate increases, inclining block rates, and an unusually warm summer.