Declining Revenue, Social Distancing Among Water Sector Concerns During Pandemic

A new survey from the American Water Works Association shows the number of utilities reporting declining revenue increased from 23% in late April to 32% in June

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Most water utilities are returning to normal operations as they reopen their offices and relax some of the measures they put in place during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey conducted by the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

Conducted June 8-15, this is the fourth in a series of surveys about how AWWA member organizations are adapting to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey closed shortly before many communities reported rising cases of COVID-19.

Utilities surveyed also reported the most common challenges were social distancing at the workplace, supply chain disruptions for PPE and declining revenue generation. More than a third (36%) of utilities surveyed reported PPE supply chain disruptions and more than one quarter (28%) are out N95 masks. This represents a drop from AWWA’s last survey (April 17-22) when 56% of surveyed utilities reported disruptions in PPE supply chain.

The number of utilities that temporarily implemented policies to mitigate COVID-19 risks — shift changes, travel restrictions, remote work where possible — dropped by about 30% between AWWA surveys in late April and June. There was also an 11% drop in utilities reporting that they suspended water shutoffs between surveys, but still a large majority of utilities have this policy in place (96% in April, 85% in June).

Seventy-five percent of surveyed utilities say their offices are open (including 21% that didn’t close their office at all during the pandemic). These utilities are taking actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, including implementing enhanced sanitizing procedures (91%), reducing size of in-person meetings (76%), and requiring face coverings (67%).

Revenue continues to decline

While PPE supply issues appear to be easing somewhat, the portion of utilities reporting declining revenue generation increased from 23% in late April to 32% in June. Additionally, 24% said they’re expecting to see revenue issues in the next month. As a result, 46% of utilities have already implemented spending adjustments and another 24% said they’re considering it. 

For the service providers who support the water sector, 46% of those surveyed said they are experiencing revenue generation issues and about two-thirds indicate they have implemented spending adjustments. Like utilities, most will have reopened their offices by the end of June (70%); however, service providers are more likely than utilities to maintain policies like work from home and travel restrictions.

Service providers have also established policies to help protect their employees from COVID-19, with almost all surveyed reporting enhanced disinfection and sanitizing procedures (94%) and about 75% implementing flexible work from home policies.

The fourth survey of AWWA member organizations generated 464 responses, including from 421 different utilities and 39 non-utilities (consultants, manufacturers, service providers and others). The responses provide a real-time assessment of how water sector organizations are currently managing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AWWA offers resources to assist utilities with dealing with the challenges that arise during the pandemic at


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