Report: Water Prices Rise Sharply Across America; Double and Triple in Some Locales

Mac Slavo, Oct. 1, 2012

It’s often overlooked and taken for granted, but it’s the most essential of all human resources.

We’re paying 75% more for it today than we were in the year 2000.
According to a recent study by USA Today, which looked at 100 large municipalities across the country, the price increases over the last decade are so significant that many Americans are having to cut other expenses just to keep up:

…the cost of this necessity of life has outpaced the percentage increases of some of these other utilities, carving a larger slice of household budgets in the process.

“I don’t know how they expect people to keep paying more for water with the cost of gas and day care and everything else going up,” complains Jacquelyn Moncrief, 60, a Philadelphia homeowner who says the price hikes would force her to make food-or-water decisions. She gathered signatures on a petition opposing a proposed water rate increase in her city this year.

USA Today’s study of residential water rates over the past 12 years for large and small water agencies nationwide found that monthly costs doubled for more in 29 localities. The unique look at costs for a diverse mix of water suppliers representing every state and Washington, D.C. found that a resource long taken for granted will continue to become more costly for millions of Americans. Indeed, rates haven’t crested yet because huge costs to upgrade or repair pipes, reservoirs and treatment plants loom nationwide.

In three municipalities — Atlanta, San Francisco and Wilmington, Del. —water costs tripled or more.

Source: USA Today

According to the report, we can expect rates to continue to rise at a whopping 5% to 15% per year going forward, and for a variety of reasons.

The trend toward higher bills is being driven by:

– The cost of paying off the debt on bonds municipalities issue to fund expensive repairs or upgrades on aging water systems.

– Increases in the cost of electricity, chemicals and fuel used to supply and treat water.

– Compliance with federal government clean-water mandates.

– Rising pension and health care costs for water agency workers.

– Increased security safeguards for water systems since the 9/11 terror attacks

One critical aspect USA Today failed to mention as a reason for higher prices and the adverse effects on our purchasing power is, of course, monetary expansion over this same time period. While water prices are up in the high double digits over the last decade, the same cannot be said for Americans’ wages.

Taking that into consideration, we may well see rates go even higher than estimated.

Coupled with an ever expanding global population, the notion that countries will soon be fighting water wars over this critical resource is not out of the question.

The days of endless clean and cheap water are behind us.

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