Benchmarking Utilities' Rates and Finances for Decision and Policy Makers

Friday, September 30, 2011

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The Rates Dashboard is a benchmarking tool developed to assist water and wastewater utility managers and decision-makers in developing rates that adequately fund necessary programs such as asset replacement and management. The Rates Dashboard is a free, interactive tool designed to allow users to compare rates across a given region while simultaneously considering financial, affordability and socioeconomic indicators. The tool graphically displays all of this information in the form of simple dials and maps instead of complex tables and spreadsheets. It provides managers, planners, board and council members, reporters, and citizens alike with an easy way to quickly and clearly benchmark a utility’s rates and financial performance, without having to navigate through the underlying data. The Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina in the United States has developed unique Rates Dashboards for four states and is developing one for Canadian utilities. In this paper, the authors use the North Carolina Rates Dashboard as an example to describe the creation of the dashboard, its elements and its applications. The Rates Dashboards are proving to be useful in communicating the information that decision-makers need in order to adopt reasonable rates for water and wastewater services.