A Digital Workshop for Public Water Utility Leaders

Thursday, September 17, 24; October 1, 8, and 15
2-3:30 EST, 1-2:30 CST

Register Today

Access to affordable clean water is a fundamental human right and should be a top priority for all mayors, especially during times of economic crisis. This is why we invite water utility leaders to join us for the inaugural Water Affordability Academy, in partnership with The Water Center at Penn.

City officials and water utility leaders are facing urban resiliency challenges like aging water infrastructure, the increasingly unpredictable effects of climate change, and increasing operating costs. This leads to a major financial dilemma: increase water rates to cover the cost of necessary infrastructure improvements or keep rates static at the expense of long-term system needs.

Now COVID-19 has meant a tsunami of additional financial strain. Some utilities have felt forced to shut off water for residents that can’t pay. But while temporary shutoff bans in a few states offered some relief, many states never did or have since let the bans expire. At the center of this crisis sits our most vulnerable: low income households, which are disproportionately made up of women and/or people of color.

This 5-part workshop series will connect you with some of the country’s most respected utility innovators to help you identify, assess, and establish a path forward on affordability in your community. You will leave with the resources you need, as well as actionable next steps to create an efficient and sustainable water affordability plan.

Additional Information

This 5-part series will cover the following (more detailed agenda to come):

  1. Water Affordability 101: Group introductions and the basics of water affordability. Utility Innovator: Howard Neukrug
  2. 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. Utility Innovators: Andrew Kricun, Kishia Powell
  3. 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 complementary Customer Assistance Programs. Utility Innovators: Joanne Dahme, George Hawkins
  4. 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. Facilitator: Henry Love
  5. Implementing Your Utility’s Plan: Though the entire Water Affordability Academy will be focused on providing you with personalized action steps, this final module will set you up to implement your plans.

After the 5-part workshop, we will provide ongoing support and technical assistance as necessary.

The workshop will take place on Thursdays (2-3:30 EST, 1-2:30 CST) over 5 weeks. The dates are: September 17, 24; October 1, 8, and 15.

The workshop will be held virtually via Zoom. Participants will receive links to the meeting after registration.

Registration is free, however attendance at all 5 parts is required. Please review the eligibility tab before registering.

Please register here.

We invite public water utilities to attend this workshop. Not sure if you qualify? Please contact us.

Before registering, utilities must commit to the following:

  • Each utility should designate one point of contact to participate in the entire workshop series. The person attending should be in a position to lead and manage any affordability planning, however you may invite additional staff to join you for all or part of it as it makes sense.
  • Each utility will be required to collect key documents and submit a pre-workshop survey with checklist. Each utility should expect 1 – 3 hours of pre-workshop preparation, depending on how accessible the information is for you. Link to survey with checklist coming soon.

Interested in joining the Academy? Contact us:

Emily Miota, Mayors Innovation Project (ejmiota@mayorsinnovation.org, 608.263.7958)
Erica DePalma, Water Center at Penn (edepalma@sas.upenn.edu, 203-640-8631)

Utility Innovators

Joanne Dahme
Senior Advisor, The Water Center at Penn

Joanne most recently served as the Philadelphia Water Department’s Deputy Commissioner for Communications and Engagement. Joanne was responsible for the planning, development, and implementation of programs designed to inform water, wastewater, and stormwater customers. Joanne was dedicated to serving the public and increasing PWD’s credibility and accessibility of services.

George Hawkins
Esq., Former General Manager, DC Water

George served as the CEO and General Manager of DC Water for 11 years. Since then, he’s founded Moonshot LLC and Moonshot Missions to help agencies identify and adopt strategies to deliver better service and lower costs. Mr. Hawkins is accomplished in transforming DC Water into an innovative enterprise by tripling its investment in clean water, being the first to issue a century bond and the first environmental impact bond, and by spearheaded programs to support low-income customers.

Andrew Kricun
Senior Advisor, The Water Center at Penn

Andrew currently works with the Water Center at the University of Pennsylvania on various projects related to the Delaware River watershed. Prior to that, he served as Executive Director and Chief Engineer of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority.

Howard Neukrug
Executive Director, The Water Center at Penn

Howard Neukrug is the former Commissioner and CEO of Philadelphia Water, where he was responsible for all aspects of utility operations, environmental compliance, engineering, financing, budgeting, capital and strategic planning, customer service, human resources, and legal and policy decisions for its drinking water/wastewater/stormwater system serving 2.3 million people. At Penn, he is the director of the Water Center and teaching courses on the water industry and the role of water in urban sustainability and resiliency. He is also a Principal with CASE Environmental, LLC, where he provides consulting services to cities and utilities in urban planning, systems design, sustainability, organizational development, strategic planning and trends and innovations in the global water industry.

Kishia Powell
Chief Operating Officer for DC Water

Kishia L. Powell was appointed to serve as Commissioner of the City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management in June 2016. As Commissioner, she is responsible for oversight of the Department’s $644M annual operating budget and a five-year capital improvement plan of $1.26B including the Water Supply Program and the Clean Water Atlanta consent decree program. Commissioner Powell has led the strategic direction of Watershed Management including financial resilience, improving service delivery, infrastructure investment, and workforce development including a partnership with the City of Atlanta’s Department of Corrections to reduce recidivism by hiring pre-release non-violent offenders as Watershed Trainees.


Henry Love
Director of Midwest Market Development and Strategy, Elevate Energy

Henry Love designs and implements programs that reduce costs, protect people and the environment and ensure the benefits of clean and efficient energy use reach those who need them most.

Karl Russek
Director of Programs & Applied Research, The Water Center at Penn

Karl Russek has over 25 years of experience in the areas of legacy pollutants, natural resources damage assessment, emerging environmental risks, industry/regulatory interface, and stakeholder management in the United States and globally. He holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Quality Science from the University of Alaska where he focused assessment and restoration of freshwater systems. He most recently founded and managed the international environmental business for a leading global insurer.