FAQ: USING THIS TOOL

What is the Purpose of This Tool?

This self assessment is intended primarily as a training resource and educational tool. It is designed to indicate possible warning signs regarding your water system’s financial health and to provide information and resources aimed at enhancing fiscal vitality. Many states and other organizations have developed similar questionnaires for assessing water system capacity. In developing this tool, we focused exclusively on financial capacity, added an interactive/evaluative component, provided on-line training links, and incorporated humor to make it more fun to use.

Who Should Use It?

The target audience is small and medium-sized public water systems. Very small water systems may find that achieving a “yes” answer is unrealistic for some questions; larger systems with more sophisticated financial management procedures may find many of the questions to be elementary. Even if some of the questions and the scoring results seem less relevant to your system, it is hoped that you will find some of the feedback and links to other resources helpful.

The tool may also be useful to third-party reviewers who are evaluating the financial capacity of particular water systems, but it should be used carefully in this regard. The scoring thresholds were designed to give users a yardstick to assess their progress, but were not intended as objective measures of whether a system deserves a passing or failing grade. Rather than focusing on the final score ratings, it may be more helpful for reviewers to assess performance on selected threshold questions that by themselves may indicate serious financial capacity issues.

How Do I Use It?

The Tool is designed to be self-guiding and easy to use without much instruction. There are, however, several things you should know to maximize its usefulness and avoid glitches:

  • Complete all 25 questions before clicking on the Evaluate link. (The Reevaluate function is for use if you decide to change some of your responses after the initial evaluation.)
  • For each question, click on the icon to take full advantage of the tool’s informational resources.
  • After answering a question, click on “Next” to proceed. If your answer had been “yes,” you will be taken to the next question. If your answer had been “no” you will receive some immediate feedback at the bottom of the page and you will need to click on “Next” again to be taken to the next question. Feedback for “no” answers is also summarized on the evaluation page at the end of the questionnaire.
  • Feedback on “yes” answers and other valuable information can be found by clicking on the icon.
  • Remember to close pop-up boxes and linked pages before proceeding to next question.
  • The scoring thresholds programmed into the tool are as follows: 100 points = Excellent; 95-99 = Good; 90-94 = Fair; 80-89 = Marginal; Below 80 = Poor. The intention was to set a “high bar” leaving room for improvement, and to ensure that a “no” answer on selected key questions had a significant bearing on the overall rating. But again, it is advised that users pay more attention to responses and feedback to individual questions than to overall scores.

    Final Note

    This tool does not attempt to mask the fact that “yes” and “no” responses are indicators of positive and negative financial capacity respectively. Answering all or most of the questions “yes” will therefore result in a superior score. But as the primary purpose of the tool is critical self-evaluation, it is assumed that users will answer questions candidly and objectively. Making the analogy of filling out a personal health questionnaire, it is sometimes tempting to indicate that you have none of listed symptoms, even when you may have some concerns – it may spare you probing questions from the doctor. To ensure your long-term health and wellbeing, however, it makes sense to be forthright, and to seriously attend to possible warning signs. Consider this same approach in evaluating your water system’s financial health!

    We hope you find this tool useful, informative, and fun. Please let us know if you have comments or suggestions for its improvement.

    Will Johnston
    Water Program Manager
    New England Environmental Finance Center
    wjohnston@usm.maine.edu
    207-228-8356