Podcast Round-Up: 12 Episodes on Drinking Water Finance and Management

Written by: Glenn Barnes
Glenn Barnes is the Associate Director at the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

My colleague Stacey Isaac Berahzer, a senior project director here at the Environmental Finance Center, made her podcast debut this week on The Water Values Podcasta series specifically focused on drinking water finance and management.  The Water Values is one of several podcast series that feature content on the drinking water sector.

For those who don’t know, a podcast is an audio file available for download to your computer or mobile device.  Podcasts typically take the form of interviews or stories, and it is a relatively new way to disseminate information about important drinking water topics.  Episodes can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour, and they are a good format to explore issues in greater depth.

Some podcast series focus exclusively on drinking water topics, whilst others are focused more broadly on government, environment, or finance topics, and occasionally feature episodes on drinking water.

The following is a collection of 12 informative podcast episodes related to drinking water finance and management, ordered by air date:

“Customer Assistance Programs and Their Expanding Importance with Stacey Isaac Berahzer”

The Water Values Podcast | October 17, 2017

This series, led by attorney Dave McGimpsey, has run for several years and often focuses on key finance and management best practices for drinking water systems. In this particular episode,  Berahzer discusses customer assistance programs (CAPs), how to fund them, legal hurdles, and their expanding importance. Berahzer uses examples and features from the recently published EFC at UNC report, “Navigating Legal Pathways to Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs: a Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities.”

“George Hawkins”

Words on Water | September 26, 2017

In the Water Environment Federation’s relatively young series, George Hawkins,  outgoing CEO and General Manager of DC Water, discusses why Blue Plains is considered the world’s largest advanced wastewater treatment plant, the importance of communicating with the public, and his decision to vacate his position at the end of the year.  As a high-profile and articulate leader in the water sector, Hawkins is also featured on several other episodes discussed later in this post.

“Sink Local Money into Drinking Water Systems”

Parts Per Billion | May 19, 2017

Parts Per Billion, a series on environmental policy from Bloomberg BNA, often features drinking water finance topics.  In the spring, the podcast talked to two key members of the Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Chairperson Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois and Ranking Member Rep. Paul Tonko of New York.  Each provided insight into how they would address water infrastructure needs across the country.  In this episode, Rep. Shimkus voices his feelings that local governments should contribute the most to water infrastructure upgrades.

“Why Is Water So Cheap? (Hint: It’s Not)”

Parts Per Billion | April 4, 2017

Parts per Billion hits another angle of the aforementioned conversation on how to address water infrastructure needs across the country in this episode where Rep. Tonko sees an expanded federal role.

“Coal’s Legacy in Appalachia: As Mining Companies Close, Water Systems Fail”

Inside Appalachia | February 17, 2017

Inside Appalachia, a podcast series that serves as an audio tour of Appalachian history, food, music, and culture, dedicated an episode to looking at drinking water systems in coal towns across West Virginia.  As coal production has slowed or stopped in many of these communities, water systems are often abandoned.

“The Importance of Asset Management with CH2M’s Scott Haskins”

The Value of Water Podcast | November 3, 2015

In this episode, Scott Haskins, a senior vice president and director of strategic consulting at CH2M, a global engineering company, joins the earlier mentioned series for an episode to talk asset management. Haskins guides listeners through asset management issues, including what asset management is, the different components of an asset management program, and how a drinking or wastewater utility can get started with an asset management plan.

“What Can the Water Company Do to Prevent Another Flint?”

Parts Per Billion | July 13, 2016

George Hawkins, head of the local water utility in Washington, D.C., makes more than one appearance in the Parts Per Billion series. In this episode, Hawkins talks on the situation in Flint, Michigan, and how a utility can avoid a situation like this in the future.

“The Future of Water Utilities: Exciting and Unfunded”

Parts Per Billion | June 29, 2016

In Hawkins’ first feature on the Bloomberg BNA podcast, he discusses  the steps DC Water can take to pay for its needs. Hawkins talks about the financial pressures he and other big-city water utilities are facing and why these pressures mean utilities must be able to communicate well with customers about their water bills.

“Non-Revenue Water and Its Misperception with Steve Cavanaugh”

The Water Values Podcast | May 19, 2015

This episode of the Water Values Podcast features Steve Cavanaugh, President and CEO of Cavanaugh and Associates, a a consulting firm that develops innovative solutions and programs that optimize water efficiency in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Cavanaugh discusses an important (yet misunderstood) area of water utilities—non-revenue water—while explaining what it is and how it can be optimized.

“Change Leadership with DC Water CEO George Hawkins”

The Water Values Podcast | May 5, 2015

Hawkins makes his podcast debut a jam packed, can’t miss episode. He not only  discusses his brand of change leadership, detailing how he approached his position when first joining DC Water in 2009, but also shares stories on how water utilities can interact with their customers and their governing boards. Hawkins also offers his thoughts on what he sees as the three biggest issues facing today’s water utilities and their leaders.

“The Ups and Downs of Environmental Finance with Jeff Hughes”

The Water Values Podcast | January 27, 2015

EFC at UNC Director Jeff Hughes appears on this podcast (which, if you’re still reading, must be very familiar by now) in early 2015 to talk about alternative rate setting models.  Hughes  guides listeners from traditional rate setting to more creative approaches to implementing water rates, and also discusses some  obstacles to seeing these mechanisms adopted and implemented. He addresses some of the complicated questions being asked among utilities and consumers as new rate designs are explored and introduced.

“Detroit’s Water Bill”

Planet Money | August 8, 2014

NPR’s Planet Money, a podcast on finance and economic topics, did an episode on the issues surrounding collecting arrearages for the water utility in Detroit, Michigan. The episode examines how a bankrupt city deals with the most basic of, yet still challenging, problems—how to get people to pay their bills.

 

These are just some of the podcasts that focus on important water finance and management issues.  What are your favorite water podcast series or episodes?  Please leave them in the comments, and happy listening.  All of the above podcasts are available for download from your favorite podcast app.

Note: Findings, interpretations, and conclusions of podcast episodes included in this report are not those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of EFC at UNC, the University, the School of Government, or those who provided review.