Water Reports

This series focuses on how mayors, cities, and water utilities can improve their public water systems, ranging from financing necessary infrastructure investments, ways to protect water a public resource, and how to implement affordability programs for city residents.

This work is supported by the Park Foundation and C.S. Mott Foundation.

View reports on all topics here.

  • Aging water infrastructure systems, climate change, and the general rising cost of urban living mean that access to clean and affordable water is becoming a greater challenge. Cities and water utilities are increasingly faced with 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. At the fulcrum of this choice sits those most vulnerable to increases in rates: low-to-moderate income households, which are disproportionately made up of women and/or people of color.

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  • From climate change to outdated infrastructure to lack of federal support, city leaders face more pressure than ever to provide affordable and safe water to residents. Mayors and city leaders need the resources to plan for and improve and maintain public water systems. This report outlines concrete actions a city can take to keep control of its water systems and provides a background to understanding the complexity of public water systems and their current challenges. The solutions for managing robust public systems include topics such as: integrating management approaches for water with other goals; engaging the public in conversations about this valuable resource; promoting affordability of water services; among many more.

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  • Even as the scale of needed investment grows, utilities can develop rate structures, impact fees, and new products or services that generate needed revenue fairly. This report is a primer on getting started with financing water systems, including: assessing where the largest costs are incurred and where borrowing is most extensive; understanding your city’s specific water utility structure and financial status; building a relationship with your water utility manager/CEO(s); and reaching out to and growing relationships with community leaders across a range of neighborhoods and interests, and asking questions about needs and water affordability.

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  • Integrated water management (IWM) offers a framework for managing all water within cities as a resource, reducing waste while capturing value, and seeking to integrate water into other city planning. The benefits of IWM include better resource management, development opportunities, and creative funding to improved recreational areas. This report provides an overview of the potential for IWM in cities from the big-picture framework down to examples of tools used by cities on the ground. IWM includes tools like protection of natural lands near waterways, capture of rain as a resource, an end to “waste” water, and planning for climate resilience.

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