According to a recent Wisconsin State Journal report, the Madison Water Utility has proposed a 22% rate increase for next year to cover borrowing for a number of capital projects, such as replacement of aging mains and efforts to improve water quality.
Madison is not alone. Increasing demand on available water supplies, in addition to ever-increasing capital costs associated with maintaining, replacing and expanding water infrastructure have forced many utilities to reexamine their water resource management and related pricing policies.
While a 22% rate increase seems staggering, the actual rate for Madison would rise from $2.81 to $3.40 per 1,000 gal—a rate well below the current state average.
Although it has been three years since water rates have gone up for Madison Water Utility customers, the utility will likely face opposition to its proposed rate increase.
Unfortunately, this is a common scenario. Too often politics dictate rates, even when the general public understands the value of reliable and safe water service and is willing to pay more for it. While careful pricing is needed to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, safe water, I hope that, in time, cities manage to filter the politics out of water and utilities continue to educate customers about how much it really costs to keep water flowing from their taps.