Environmental Justice Guide for Water Utility Managers

Location: Nationwide | Client: American Water Works Association | Project Date: May 2018 – December 2019

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A Water Utility Manager’s Guide to Community Stewardship

Project Description


Today’s utilities are looking for creative ways to embody the community stewardship role within their service delivery mission. Community stewardshipis the practice of leveraging the utility’s assets and operations to benefit the larger community, lessen negative impacts from utility activities, and provide service equitably across the service area, particularly for traditionally underserved neighborhoods. Many utilities already integrate community stewardship throughout some of their functional areas as an integral part of their business models. Skeo was selected to support the national American Water Works Association (AWWA) to identify best practices and develop a guide for integrating environmental justice (EJ) into water utility policy, programs and projects. The project was guided by the AWWA and a cross-sector project advisory team.


To support this effort, Skeo conducted best practice research to identify successful EJ practices currently adopted by utility leaders across the country. Using this baseline, Skeo designed and facilitated a series of interviews with utility managers and related stakeholders across the country. Skeo then collated this information into a draft guide that outlines EJ considerations for each utility operational area, including planning, capital projects, community engagement, finance and watershed stewardship. Skeo then convened and facilitated an all-day retreat to walk through the draft guide and integrate comments and input throughout.


Skeo developed a new guide that highlights utility innovators and provides utility managers with strategies and tools to support their local communities, effectively engage underserved communities and apply a social equity lens to water service delivery. The Water Utility Manager’s Guide to Community Stewardship provides a practical step-by-step process for utilities to integrate community stewardship into day-to-day functional utility areas. Strategies are outlined as a menu of options around utility functional areas and includes principles and tips for how to engage the community effectively and meaningfully. Case studies and tools throughout the guide highlight a range of innovative social equity programs including:

  • Infrastructure service line extension.
  • Lead service line replacement.
  • Community stewardship partnerships.
  • Customer affordability programs.
  • Customer assistance programs.
  • Disadvantaged business contracting.
  • Community benefits programs.