Water Affordability Academy

In partnership with:                 The Water Center at Penn                           

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 have invited 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. This 5-part workshop series connects utility leaders with some of the country’s most respected utility innovators to help them identify, assess, and establish a path forward on affordability in their community.

Fall Academy Participants

Water Bureau, Rochester, NY
City of Grand Rapids, MI
Broadview Westchester Joint Water Agency, Broadview, IL
Water Supply Bureau, Akron, OH
Public Works, Boise, ID
City of West Palm Beach, FL
Great Lakes Water Authority
Detroit Water and Sewerage Department
Oakland County Water Resources
City of Rockford, IL
Toledo, OH Water
City of Evanston, IL
Board of Water and Light, Lansing, MI
Water Resources, Burlington, VT
Water & Wastewater Utility, Anchorage, AK

Interested in joining us for the spring Academy? Contact ejmiota@mayorsinnovation.org for more!

Led By

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 CEO/General Manager of DC Water for 11 years. Since then, he founded Moonshot LLC /Moonshot Missions to help agencies identify and adopt strategies to deliver better service and lower costs. George 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 environmental impact bond, and spearheaded programs to support low-income customers.


Andrew Kricun
Former Executive Director, Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority & 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
Former Commissioner, Philadelphia Water & 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.


Jourdan Nash
Research Analyst, Elevate Energy
Jourdan Nash is a Research Analyst at Elevate Energy, a nonprofit organization that 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. He is a key member in the planning, development, and implementation of applied research projects. Jourdan manages the design and implementation of qualitative and quantitative data analysis and identifying, researching, compiling, and evaluating datasets, background information, and/or public policy relevant to Elevate Energy initiatives, which include energy and water efficiency, community solar, environmental health, energy and sustainable planning, and policy. In his role he works closely with Elevate Energy’s water programs as a Project Manager on various water affordability projects that focus on strategic recommendations and implementation methods to address water quality issues within municipalities. Further, as part of his qualitative research Jourdan has been working closely with water utilities, professionals, experts, city officials, and advocates as well as key players from different organizations throughout the Chicago region and the country. His work and research have been instrumental in assessing and understanding best practices to address water affordability issues.

Jenny Lopez Riley
Associate Director of Marketing, Elevate Energy
Jenny Lopez Riley serves as the Associate Director of Marketing at Elevate Energy, a nonprofit organization that 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. Jenny has twenty years of strategic marketing, consumer research, and brand building experience. She leads business strategy and the development and execution of marketing and communication strategies for a range of corporate organizations such as ComEd, Ameren Illinois, Peoples Gas, and Nicor Gas, cities and municipalities, and nonprofit organizations. She is responsible for managing brand-building initiatives, including: advertising, content marketing, public relations, community building, digital marketing, market research, and consumer relations. Her areas of focus include ongoing innovation in market planning and execution to meet program goals, brand evolution and creative strategy, and well-being initiatives for vulnerable and low-income communities. She joined Elevate Energy in 2014. Jenny has Master of Science, Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University, is certified in Digital Marketing, and holds her Series 7, 24, and 63 securities licenses. She was previously Director of Client Services and Compliance for an investment firm in California.

Karl Russek
Director of Programs and 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.


View Agenda

This 5-part series will cover the following:

  1. Water Affordability 101: Introductions and the basics of water affordability.
  2. Operational efficiencies: Explore options through technology, data use and management, and investments (such as lights, efficiency pumps, and more) that reduce operational costs.
  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.
  4. Community Engagement & Communications: Help you identify current relationships with your community, and help you walk away with the best path forward to improve engagement around water affordability. 
  5. Implementing Your Utility’s Plan: Help you leave and implement your plans.

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.

We invite public water utilities or city water policy leaders to attend this workshop. Spots are limited. 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)