National Rural Water Association recently conducted a national survey of small and rural utility systems. NRWA estimates small water and wastewater systems will lose $998 million in revenue by mid-July. This loss in revenue will not be recovered by utilities and does not include emergency operational costs such as staging additional shifts, isolating staff, modifying procedures for regulatory compliance, purchasing PPE, and additional equipment for remote work.
The survey was completed by 4,636 water and wastewater utilities across 50 states & U.S. Territories. Collectively, these systems serve 29,016,515 people and 1,386,787 businesses. Small systems (serving less than 10,000 people) made up 93% of survey respondents. 32% of these systems were able to forecast revenue loss over the next three months. The average revenue loss of these small systems was $56,474.
Small drinking water systems comprise 91% of all U.S. systems. here are currently 45,227 small community water systems serving 10,000 persons or less out of a total of 49,602 systems, according to EPA data. The potential financial impact assumes 32% of America’s 45,227 small water utilities are affected.
Publicly-available federal information on wastewater utilities is less certain. NRWA assumed wastewater systems will bear similar costs as drinking water utilities. Approximately 10,000 small wastewater systems exist in the U.S.
The National Rural Water Association urges Congress to take action now to include water and wastewater systems in the next stimulus bill and/or take independent action to ensure their sustainability and financial solvency. Public water and wastewater utilities are essential to protect public health and the environment. Small and rural communities have done their part to meet the public’s needs during the COVID-19 pandemic by maintaining and restoring customer access to services regardless of payment. They need assistance from Congress now to protect the public they serve.
To view the results of the survey please click here.