A Public Water Utility Workshop on Affordability

Unfortunately, due to concerns over COVID-19, we have cancelled this event. We will be in contact with participants about alternate plans.

The compounding challenges of aging water infrastructure systems, climate change, and the general rising cost of living put cities and water utilities in a major financial dilemma: increase rates to update infrastructure and price out ratepayers, or keep rates static at the expense of aging and failing infrastructure.

The workshop, in partnership with the Water Center at Penn and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, will bring together water utility leaders across the Great Lakes region.

The goal is to arm utility leaders with resources needed to help create efficient, affordable, and sustainable water entities that have positive relationships with the constituents they serve.


This workshop is intended for senior municipal water leaders or relevant senior city staff in the Great Lakes, and by invitation only. We invite one water utility leader or senior city policy staff per water system. Contact Matthew Braunginn for more information or to request an invite.

On the Agenda

This highly interactive and engaging workshop will connect municipal leaders with experts in efforts to create a clear path forward in designing a water affordability program. The program will aim to work within the context of the municipal water infrastructure needs, finances, and demographics. To help achieve this goal, we will consider three focus areas:

  • Rates & Customer programs
  • Community Engagement & Communications
  • Operational Efficiencies​

Thursday, April 2, 2020

2:00 – 3:00pm Check-In
3:00 – 3:30pm Welcome & Introductions
3:30 – 5:30pm Module 1

Attendees will be divided up into 3 groups. Each group will rotate and visit one module during each of the 3 module times:

Rates & Customer programs: Work with experts to determine the financial health of your utility, potential water rate options that fit best for your city, and the infrastructure needs of the utility. The goal will be to put together a rate that has an eye towards affordability while also building complimentary Customer Assistance Programs. Facilitated by the Water Center at Penn.

Community Engagement & Communications: How do you exchange knowledge about your water system with your community? Are you able to contact your key community leaders and engage with them on ways to better connect to the residents that need assistance the most? Are you trusted by your community to provide quality service and information? This session will help you identify current relationships with your community, and help you walk away with the best path forward to improve engagement.

Operational efficiencies: This section will explore options through technology, data use and management, and investments (such as lights, efficiency pumps, and more) that reduce operational costs. Facilitated by the Water Center at Penn.

5:30 – 6:00pm Break
6:00 – 7:00pm Reception
7:00 – 8:30pm Dinner

Friday, April 3

8:00 – 8:30am Breakfast
8:30 – 10:30am Module 2
10:30 – 10:45am Break
10:45 – 11:45am Utility Case Study
11:45 – 12:30pm Lunch
12:30 – 2:30pm Module 3
2:30 – 3:00pm Next Steps & Closing Remarks

Thursday, April 2 – Friday, April 3
The Detroit Center, Grand Valley State University
163 Madison Street, Detroit, MI

We invite one water utility leader or senior city policy staff per water system in the Great Lakes region. Not sure if you qualify? Please contact us.

Registration is free for invited and eligible guests.

Travel & hotel support may be available. Please contact Matthew Braunginn to learn more.

A room block has been reserved at the Hilton Garden Inn at a rate of $136/night plus tax. Please contact Michelle Bright to book. The hotel is a 0.2 mile walk to the meeting.