Turning Water into Dollars

by Paul Tarricone, Associate Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1995, Vol. 65, Issue 7, Pg. 61-63

Document Type: Feature article


Revenues were suffering in the water departments of Jefferson Parish, La. and Houston in the late 1980s and early 90s. But after overhauling their billing, collection and customer-service procedures, both departments are now enjoying a wave of increased revenue. The problem in Jefferson Parish was inaccurate meters, water rates that hadn't gone up in 25 years, and the unbilled delivery of extra services (such as sewage collection and treatment). To address these problems, the city hired an outside consultant through an unusual request for proposals, which tied payment to revenue increases associated with the study. As a result of the program, Jefferson Parish estimates a revenue increase of $1.8 million over three years. In Houston, meanwhile, customer-service employees were not empowered to adjust bills when necessary, causing delays in payment. In addition, more than 10,000 accounts had no known customers to bill, and 4,000 accounts received estimated bills because their meters were buried or otherwise lost. Today, the city has increased its revenues by authorizing most employees to make immediate bill adjustments, by locating and reading all its meters, by instituting a better deposit policy for service, by adapting hand-held meter-reading device for use as a collection tool, and by limiting water theft and unauthorized use.

Subject Headings: Revenues | Client relationships | Water treatment | Water meters | Payment | Employees | Water policy

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