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An Environmental Services Financial Sustainability Model for CSO Compliance

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Like many other municipalities across the country, the City of Omaha, Nebraska is grappling with regulatory compliance issues related to combined sewer overflows (CSO). Omaha's regional wastewater treatment system and its ratepayers face a huge challenge in complying with an unfunded federal mandate to reduce sewer overflows of combined wastewater and stormwater. As part of the City's plan to manage the triple bottom line of sustainability (environmental, economic, and social effects and benefits), Omaha has adopted an innovative approach to developing a fiscally responsible and sustainable solution to CSO compliance that is detailed in this paper.

In order to achieve its objectives, Omaha is refining its capital improvement plan (CIP) to include sewer separation projects, an underground tunnel and high rate treatment basins at an estimated cost of more than 1.6 billion over the next 15 years. This massive infrastructure project is expected to be funded primarily through user charges, financed through revenue bonds, and will likely increase typical user charges several-fold. Additionally, it may significantly increase the number of customers that cannot afford to pay the full cost-of-service charges. With the assistance of a fiscally responsible and sustainable long-term financial plan, City staff members are now able to continuously update their fiscal planning for Environmental Services, including the projection of sustainable user charges and low-income assistance programs.
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Keywords: Combined sewer overflows; financial plan; long-term control plan; rates; sustainability

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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