Doing the Right Thing: Ending Water Cutoffs


“What keeps you up at night?” This was a question posed to George Hawkins (GM at DC Water), at a recent water conference. He promptly replied “Figuring out how to keep providing water to my growing population of low-income customers”. Later that week, a colleague mentioned her displeasure at having her water cutoff because of a system error. She had paid her active utility service deposit, had no history of nonpayment and was still cutoff without notice. Guilty until proven innocent!

Having worked in and with utilities, I have experienced the importance departments ascribe to doing things right. A more difficult transition to make is to keep doing things right, while driving towards a goal of doing the right thing. Small play on words, big difference in impact. Utility leadership, of course, play a huge role in direction setting towards the doing the right thing. However champions need not be restricted to management, and often in the case of cutoff policy and operational procedures, field teams can be the most important advocates of change.

Cutoff Analyzer in Action

We piloted our Cutoff Analyzer solution at a progressive mid-size water utility in South East USA last year. The utility was facing a growing nonpayment situation, with the numbers of overall cutoffs increasing each month, a substantial amount of arrears to be collected, and increasing pressures on Operations and Customer Services to manage cutoff customers in a satisfactory manner. The Field vocalized their concerns to Management, and Valor was charged with analyzing the situation, testing multiple intervention strategies (payment reminders) on select customers with a high risk of nonpayment, and quantifying intervention success in the total cutoffs reduced.

The key findings is presented in the graph below:


Where to From Here?

So, where to from here? Are you a GM like George, with the desire to do MORE? Are you in a utility or a city with mixed populations, where cutoffs may be an issue? Are you a customer that has experienced cutoff and wish your utility had done a better job with their communications? Are you a low income water user, anxious about how you are going to pay your bill and avoid cutoff? Take a moment and think about what the ideal state could be for a forward-thinking utility from financial, operational, customer satisfaction perspectives. Let’s then explore a way to leverage the power of big data and achieve these goals. Because when we do the right thing, we add value to people’s lives, and in turn, they will want to add value to ours. And no more sleepless nights because of water cutoffs.

Authored by Janani Mohanakrishnan, Director of Client Engagement at Valor Water Analytics