Spring Academy on Water Affordability

COVID-19’s impacts continue to hit local water utilities especially hard, as increased unemployment and less non-residential demand impact revenue. During these challenging times, local leaders need solutions and support in order to keep water accessible and affordable for those struggling.  This is why the spring Water Affordability Academy was so incredibly timely. With our partners at the Water Center at Penn, we hosted 13 utilities for this 5-week, intensive workshop.

“Wonderful exchange of new programs and examples of what works.” – Academy participant

Our spring Academy emphasized the same critical principles as the inaugural Academy held last fall but also covered timely discussions around federal funding. A few major themes and discussions emerged:

How can utilities prepare to receive federal support when the time comes?

While we don’t know for sure yet what the landscape will look like, all cities and utilities should start now to prepare shovel-ready projects and regularly communicate with their state-level decision makers, who will most likely be responsible for allocating funds.

How can cities use operational efficiencies and revenue optimization to ensure equitable rates?

Check out this resource from our partners at the Water Center at Penn to get started in your community.

What type of customer assistance program is possible in your community?

State laws vary widely, and what works in South Bend, IN may not work in Atlanta, GA or Washington, DC. Because there’s not a one-size-fits all solution, we are providing ongoing technical assistance to all Academy participants that need it, helping them to navigate their best path forward.

How can utilities communicate effectively with the residents that need this support most?

Often overlooked, the ability to communicate clearly, early and often is critical to being ready for future crisis management, rate hearings, or new customer assistance program rollouts.

“Everyone was engaged, passionate and ideas, resources and valuable business contacts were made and shared.” – Academy participant


Spring Academy participants included leaders that oversee water systems covering the following cities:

Anchorage, AK
Buffalo, NY
Bloomington, IN
Grand Rapids, MI
Lancaster, PA
Lehigh County, PA
Madison, WI
New Orleans, LA
Westmoreland County, PA
Reading, PA
Toledo, OH
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
North Palm Beach, FL
Lake Park, FL
Juno Beach, FL 

Thank you to our incredible experts and former utility leaders who led the Academy, providing invaluable insight for our participants.

“We’re all in the same boat and can help each other!” – Academy participant

What’s next

We are excited to announce that, with the generous support of the Park Foundation, we will be launching a Water Affordability Academy—specifically for New York state cities—this fall. 

About us

In partnership with The Water Center at Penn, we are dedicated to helping mayors, utility leaders, and city staff create affordable, efficient, resilient, and equitable water systems. Learn more about our water affordability program here, and join our mailing list to get all updates and invitations.

This work is generously supported by the Mott & Heinz Foundations.