Tempering Increased Water Bills

Nov. 1, 2005

About the author: Tim Gregorski, editorial director [email protected]


Everywhere you turn these days, the world seems more expensive. From the aisles in your local grocery store to the cost of a ticket to a sporting event, and most notably, at the gas pump, where prices have reached all-time highs across the country.

These cost increases are trickling down to your utility bills this year as well. In recent months, I’ve noticed my natural gas and electricity bills have increased significantly. According to various newspaper accounts here in the Midwest, utility owners have acknowledged the price increases and confirmed that costs will indeed remain higher for the foreseeable future.

Keeping with the same tune, I didn’t have to wait long to hear a forecast regarding rates for the water industry.

In their annual survey, the NUS Consulting Group, an energy and telecommunications consultant, found the average price of water in the U.S. jumped by 3.5% over a one-year period from July 2004 to July 2005.

The survey included 51 water systems located in the U.S. The highest price paid for water was in Huntington, W.V., a city of more than 54,000 people, where residents plunk down $5.49 per 1,000 gal.

On the flip side of the astronomical $5-plus rate is the town of Greenville, Miss., population more than 41,000, where residents pay $.80 per 1,000 gal.

Overall, the average cost of water in the U.S. is $2.34 per 1,000 gal. Including the related sewer costs, the NUS survey found the national average rose to $5.78 per 1,000 gal, an increase of 5.3% from July 2004.

According to the survey, significant increases in water prices were noted in San Francisco (+14.8%); Denver (+13.7%); Hartford, Conn. (+12.7%); Greensboro, N.C. (+12.7%); and Newport, N.H. (+10.0%) over the same July 2004 to July 2005 time period.

NUS cited that the water price increases were related to maintenance and construction costs, as many of these cities plan to, or currently are, upgrading and maintaining aging water and sewer infrastructure.

Richard Soultanian, co-president of the NUS Consulting Group believes that while the increase in water prices may seem insignificant compared to the recent rise in other energy costs, he pointed out, “Increased water and related sewer costs occur, without fail, year after year.”

Soultanian went on to say that both residents and especially businesses could face even more significant increases in the future. “Aging water systems coupled with strict government regulations will have consumers paying more, which in turn, could have a negative impact on many business operations.”

What effect will increased water costs have on your water operations? Chances are, at some point, you will face some backlash from residents and businesses alike.

Despite increases in water costs, it is your responsibility to let customers know the opportunity exists to temper their water bills by having them monitor their use patterns. Making customers aware of the benefits of water conservation, while also cutting back on the wasting of water, should have a direct impact on their water bills.