Why Do Water Bills Go Up?

If consumption of water remains constant, or even goes down because of conservation, why does your rate go up? Unfortunately for consumers, there is no simple answer.

A number of factors contribute to water bill increases. The primary reasons include the need to repair and/or replace aging water system infrastructure (the tens of thousands of miles of pipes buried underground) and stricter environmental regulations. These factors are combined with decreases in federal and state funding.

While substantial federal support had been available for water and wastewater infrastructure in the past, this support has dropped significantly in recent years. This leaves the costs associated with maintaining and expanding drinking water systems to the utilities and their ratepayers.

Water utilities, and their customers, face an enormous price to replace old pipes, many of which are 50 years old or older. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the cost to replace old water distribution systems nationwide to be $400 billion over the next 20 years.

So, why is it so important to replace and upgrade water infrastructure?  At present, the U.S. loses nearly two trillion gallons of clean water annually, at a cost of $2.6 billion, to broken and leaky pipes. Pipes in this poor condition also increase the risk of exposure to water-borne diseases.

Providing safe and affordable drinking water is at the heart of every water utility’s mission. This commitment, along with increasingly stringent federal and state water-quality standards, has improved drinking water but also increased the cost of providing that water.

Water utilities understand the need to keep rates as low as possible. That’s why hundreds of utilities across the country are members of organizations such as the Water Research Foundation (www.waterrf.org). The Foundation provides the opportunity for utilities to pool their resources to conduct drinking water research. By keeping abreast of new and emerging treatment and delivery methods and sharing best practices, utilities can continue to provide the highest-quality water.

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