This report shares the findings, recommendations, and tools created as a result of Water Research Foundation Project 445: Rate Approval Process Communication Strategy and Toolkit.
The primary objective of this research project was to identify and develop communication approaches, messages, and tools that water utilities can use to communicate water rate and pricing changes more effectively to governing board members, and gain support for needed utility rate adjustments. This was accomplished by identifying the factors critical to successful rate case adoptions, identifying factors that tend to inhibit successful rate adoption, developing a framework for effective rate communications, and preparing a Rate Communication Toolkit that can be used to effectively communicate and garner support for rate adjustments.
The research aimed to determine the type of strategies and information that would be most effective in overcoming the obstacles to rate increase approvals, as well as the preferred styles and methods to communicate this information to governing board members. The communication framework presented in this report is intended to provide utility managers with insights and an effective approach to develop a robust communication platform between utility management and governing board members, and to identify and present example content that can be used to communicate the importance of a rate increase more effectively.
Addressing current and future utility challenges requires a diversity of messages, techniques, and methods to clearly define the problems the utility is facing in a way that resonates with governing board members. The result of the research is a Rate Communications Toolkit that contains several materials for utility managers to use to communicate and garner support for the rate adoption process. The toolkit was designed and prepared based on experience with past successes of rate case approaches and processes, research about the appropriate content and level of detail of communication materials, and consideration of additional factors that influence the success of a utility rate case.