The National Academy of Public Administration has released its long-awaited report titled “Developing a New Framework for Community Affordability of Clean Water Services.” Affordability is a central issue to many communities who increasingly are dealing with higher costs to address aging infrastructure and federal clean water mandates.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, in a committee report on FY 2016 legislative language, directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) to conduct an independent study to create a definition of, and framework for, community affordability of clean water.
Over the past several years, the government’s ability to provide affordable clean water services to communities and individuals has reached a critical juncture. Aging infrastructure, regulatory obligations and rising costs, and increasing economic segmentation in the United States have adversely affected both water utilities and the low-income customers who use are most vulnerable to water rate increases. The delivery of clean, affordable water requires collaboration across levels of government and the public and private sectors, given the fragmented nature of water governance in this country. Despite the complexity of these issues, numerous creative and innovative solutions have been implemented across the country and provide opportunities to optimize and revolutionize water service delivery operations in the coming years.
The recommendations of the report approach the task in four specific ways:
- Revising the 1997 guidance document titled Combined Sewer Overflows–Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development;
- Highlighting best practices for integrated planning;
- Identifying innovative solutions to further address affordability by lowering costs; and
- Discussing the best approaches to analyzing the costs and benefits.
The Panel’s recommendations will require sustained leadership at all levels of government in order to ensure that the nation’s community water systems are able to protect the health of our environment and of our citizens.