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.
Addressing Financial Sustainability of Drinking Water Systems with Declining Populations: Lessons from Pennsylvania
This report focuses on the challenges facing water utilities in areas where population has declined in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A total of 16 water systems were broadly analyzed, with in-depth analyses of four municipal water systems in the cities of Altoona, Chester, Johnstown, and Reading. These four cases highlight some of the overall trends and complications faced by shrinking cities.
This paper explores the evolution of water services in the United States. Most people have access to water, most tap water is drinkable, most dams are secure, most farms can grow more with less water, and most rivers are cleaner than they were 50 years ago. Most does not mean all. There is growing evidence that an increasing number of Americans are losing access to safe drinking water and sanitation—and others never had it at all.
May and June 2020 data for the eight water utilities in our study show diverging trends of water consumption and revenues as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, with states and local governments taking different approaches and timelines to rolling back restrictions. There are signs of recovery in water consumption and revenues for many utilities, mostly due to high residential consumption and billed revenues, not increased usage from non-residential customers.
Preliminary data from five water utilities of different sizes and different climates across the U.S. show variable impacts to consumption and billed revenue in response to the global pandemic. Some utilities saw a decline in primarily non-residential consumption of up to 19% and non-residential billed revenue of up to 8% in April, one full month into the pandemic, relative to April usage and revenue in the past three years. For some utilities, consumption and revenues remained similar to previous years.
Ensuring Water Quality: Innovating on the Clean Water & Safe Drinking Water Acts for the 21st Century
The 2019 Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum explored the concept of innovating the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts for the 21st Century and the ideas that undergird these two acts, their successes, shortcomings, and unintended consequences. The central question was how can innovation and regulation at local, state, and federal levels address chronic and emerging water quality challenges across the U.S.?
Federal Decentralization and Adaptive Management of Water Resources: Reservoir Reallocation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Reservoir operations must respond to changing conditions, such as climate, water demand, regulations, and sedimentation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) can reallocate reservoir storage to respond to such changes. We assembled and analyzed a database of reservoir reallocations implemented and proposed by the Corps.
Managing Rivers Under Changing Environmental and Societal Boundary Conditions, Part 1: National Trends and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs
Most major rivers in the United States are managed by a system of reservoirs; many of which were built more than a half century ago. These reservoirs were designed based on environmental, societal, and regulatory assumptions at the time of construction. Since then, we have learned that climate is not stationary, population growth is being decoupled from energy needs and water demand, and new regulations (such as the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act) affect how river systems are managed.
Managing Rivers Under Changing Environmental and Societal Boundary Conditions, Part 2: Expected Compared With Experienced Conditions at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs
Reservoirs are critical infrastructure typically built to function as designed for 50 to 100 years. The majority of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs are more than 50 years old. The environmental, societal, and regulatory conditions surrounding the reservoir, that is, the reservoir's expected conditions, shaped its design. Many of these expectations assumed a future similar to the past. However, recent decades have experienced warming climates, cyclical changes in precipitation, the introduction of new regulations, and populations concentrating in urban environments.
"Reaching Watershed Scale Through Cooperation and Integration" summarizes the Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum discussions of May-June 2018. The forum explored how integration could address the mismatch between what has traditionally been local solutions for local water issues and emerging water challenges that impact large geographic regions, multiple sectors, and different community functions. Integration is intended to synergistically combine efforts and resources to create benefits that could not have been individually achieved. The forum explored the opportunities and challenges to integration within and between water sectors, identifying common elements for success.