Water Utility Customer Assistance Program Cost Estimation Tool

Monday, January 6, 2014

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This tool was developed by the Environmental Finance Center for the Water Research Foundation as part of the Defining Resilient Business Models for Water Utilities project. The tool is designed to help water utilities estimate the costs of implementing a customer assistance program. 

What are Water Utility Customer Assistance Programs?

To help residential customers with low or fixed incomes pay water and/or wastewater bills they cannot afford, some utilities have set up customer assistance programs. Customer assistance programs vary from utility to utility. For the purposes of this tool, customer assistance programs refer to programs that set aside funds that can be used to pay at least part of a customer's bill when the customer shows that they cannot afford to pay the full amount. Customer assistance programs can be organized and administered in a variety of ways by different types of organizations, and can be funded through donations, bill round-up programs, grants, or a number of ways.

What is the Objective of this Tool? What Type of Customer Assistance Program is Modeled in this Tool?

This tool helps a water utility calculate a rough, ball-park estimate of the annual cost of funding a new customer assistance program. It assumes that only residential customers with annual household income below a certain threshold would be eligible to participate in the customer assistance program. The customer assistance program is set up to provide each participating customer up to a certain annual maximum amount of financial assistance (grants or reductions in bills) to pay the portions of their water and/or wastewater bills that they cannot afford to pay. The maximum assistance amount and the income threshold, which is based on current water/wastewater rates and a targeted percent of household income, are set by the utility in this tool.

Who Should Use this Tool?

Any water utility that is concerned about the affordability of its rates on their low income customers, and is considering starting a customer assistance program that provides grants to residential customers with low incomes, but has not yet determined it the program's costs to the utility.

How do I use this tool?

To learn how to use the tool, watch the tutorial video below: