New community sustainability tool can help local water districts forecast financial needs

Published 12:01 am Sunday, December 19, 2021

BATON ROUGE — A free, user-friendly planning resource that can help Louisiana’s water and wastewater service providers better determine their financial ability to invest in infrastructure improvements and expansions is now available through the Wichita State University Environmental Finance Center.

The WSU Environmental Finance Center has created the Louisiana Community Sustainability Tool to do the job.

“The Louisiana Community Sustainability Tool is a planning resource for community leaders, mayors, public works directors and community members. When it is time to upgrade or improve water or wastewater infrastructure, this tool can help communities understand their ability to pay for these large investments over time.” said Tonya Bronleewe, director of the Environmental Finance Center. “One of the biggest benefits of this tool is that the
calculations are targeted to each community, since no two communities are the same.”

Joel McKenzie, manager of the Louisiana Drinking Water Revolving Loan Program, noted that many communities across the state face difficult decisions about updating or replacing aging drinking water infrastructure so they can continue to provide customers with compliant, safe drinking water.

“Knowing if a community or water district has the potential customer base to support infrastructure investments is important,” McKenzie said.

The Louisiana Community Sustainability Tool uses a combination of user data and program-generated forecasts to broadly forecast the future average water and/or wastewater bill needed to sustain utility infrastructure investments. It shows the ability to sustain infrastructure investments in relation to the community’s forecasted median household
income.

The tool can be used as a decision-making guide for further investigation into a community’s proposed water and wastewater utility infrastructure investments. The tool is free and available at the Wichita State University Environmental Finance Center’s website at www.wichita.edu/efc , or by contacting the Environmental Finance Center
at efc@wichita.edu.

The Louisiana Community Sustainability Tool project was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 under assistance agreement #AI97756601. The WSU Environmental Finance Center (EFC) is one of 10 Environmental Finance Centers located across the country that provide communities with professional training, technical assistance, and applied research to bolster efforts to manage the costs of environmental protection for the public.