BGR Examines S&WB Governance Problems and Potential Reform Options

May 17, 2023

Today the Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) releases a new report that connects the flawed governance structure of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (S&WB) to key problems affecting the city’s water, sewer and drainage systems. 

Highlights of BGR’s report, Waterworks in Progress: Reassessing the Sewerage & Water Board’s Governance Problems and Potential Paths to Long-Term Improvement, include:

  • The S&WB’s governance structure – basically, the laws and policies that guide decision making for the utility – weakens its finances, its coordination with the City of New Orleans and public accountability for both entities.
  • To improve the utility’s governance, BGR suggests either strengthening the S&WB as a stand-alone utility that operates separately from City government or replacing it with a municipal utility that functions as part of City government. Both options have complications that require further study, which the mayor should initiate. But inaction poses unacceptable risks to vital infrastructure systems.
  • BGR also recommends several near-term solutions to improve financial sustainability, drainage system performance and S&WB-City coordination, regardless of which reform option is ultimately chosen.

“BGR’s report lays the groundwork for governance improvements that can help New Orleans achieve long-term, sustainable improvement for its water, sewer and drainage infrastructure,” BGR President and CEO Rebecca Mowbray said.

Click here to read a mobile-friendly InBrief summary and access the full report, media release and a short video about the report.