Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2012 - (Page 28)

FINANCIAL DASHBOARDS Imagine your Ford telling you the health of your water system? BY CHRIS BLANCHARD, M.A., PROJECT ASSOCIATE, ENVIRONMENTAL FINANCE CENTER, BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY THE IDEA BEHIND a financial dashboard is really no different than a vehicle dashboard. With a glance across the dials, you are able to get a picture of how the vehicle is performing from speed, fuel level and upcoming maintenance needs. With financial dashboards, the dials tell you your burn rate of cash, affordability of rates, reserves for capital replacement and how soon you may run out of money if you do not stop at a cash station. Financial dashboards help operators, managers and ultimately board members determine the financial condition of the system, the upcoming major repairs and maintenance, and the ability to borrow money. Finally, dashboards give the user easy slide bars or dials to turn to see how much rates would have to rise if you are applying for a major capital improvement loan or simply wanting to establish a cash reserve. A financial dashboard is a component of what are known as “business intelligence” tools. These tools combine a database, reporting tools and a “data visualization” tool – the dashboard. As shown in Figure 1, the dashboard simplifies the presentation of reams of data. After uploading system data, the dashboards can display critical information such as a system’s revenue and expense summary, and financial indicators such as an affordability index, operating ratio and how much is being reinvested in the system. This is what your board or commission needs to know. Another thing that dashboards do well is forecasting or “what if?” scenarios. Because users can manipulate the data on the screen, it’s easy to see the impacts of a rate increase, a sudden spurt of population growth, the failure of a critical component in Figure 1 28 • Second Quarter 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2012

From the President
Rethinking the World's Water Systems
Financing Sustainable Through Energy Conservation
Financial Dashboards
Rural Water Testifies Before the U.S. Senate
Regulatory Update
Throwing My Loop
Index to Advertisers /
From the CEO

Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2012