Water Prices Jump Nearly 7 Percent in 2012: Now What?

Increasing water prices mean more public outreach

It should come as no surprise that the price of water is on the rise. The rate at which prices have increased may surprise you though, and it will definitely shock your customers if they’re not prepared for an increase or well informed about why an increase is necessary. 

According to a survey recently released by Circle of Blue, water prices increased an average of 6.7 percent in 30 major U.S. cities in the past year. Survey results were based on average monthly bills for families of four using 50, 100 and 150 gallons of water per person per day.  

Circle of Blue began tracking rates in 2010, and compared to the initial results, water prices have increased 25 percent overall. The study cites growing populations, failing infrastructure and new facilities that must comply with federal mandates as reasons for the rate increases.

This information comes after the U.S. EPA’s report released this spring stated that $384 billion in improvements are needed for the nation’s drinking water infrastructure through 2030. And as you are all well aware, the burden of those improvements costs is borne almost entirely by cities and ratepayers as a result of federal grants for municipal water infrastructure being depleted in the 1980s to meet Clean Water Act standards. 

When infrastructure improvement funds are needed, there’s a ripple effect felt from the government agencies that request the restoration of existing pipes to the operators who manage the systems down to the consumers. And explaining those price increases to customers who only see the end product — water flowing out of the tap — is difficult. 

“One of the biggest problems with drinking water infrastructure is it’s completely hidden,” says Lara Biggs, superintendent of utilities for construction and field services in Evanston, Ill. “Drinking water utilities take pride in the fact that they never have anything go wrong. And if nothing ever goes wrong, then people forget about you.” She notes that raising awareness about water systems through public education is beneficial. “It just keep utilities in the minds of residents with a positive connotation.”

So what types of outreach efforts do you use to educate your customers on why rate increases are necessary? What else do you do to ease the pain of price hikes for your customers? Or what do you suggest we can do as an industry? Leave a comment below. 



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