I recently read an article on water affordability called “Affordable Water in the U.S.A
Burgeoning Crisis.” It was released in January 2017 by writers from Michigan State University.
It’s general statement of rising costs to provide water and wastewater service to all users is very accurate. Many ignored capital improvements are being done after decades of neglect with less state and federal grant money which are being funded by rate increases instead.
For too many years, rates were left stagnant with few improvements, repairs and replacement work getting done. Besides, no one likes rate increases.
But even general operating expenses were increasing such as other utilities, chemicals, labor, equipment which may not have been matched to simply break-even.
Will all water and sewer rates continue at this same rate? It’s hard to say. Most utility providers do annual budgets to keep an eye on any such moves of income or expense and adjust accordingly. However, most have some plan for capital improvements even if its “repair and replacement” work that needs annual attention by the local suppliers.
The article draws conclusion based on US-wide rates that have been averaged without many local impact reviews. A simple forecast based on stagnant incomes leads to the conclusion that water and sewer services may be unaffordable. It ignores minimum usage and minimal bills with ongoing efforts to recycle, reuse, and reduce their usage (which may reduce their monthly bills!)
How do we reduce the risk?
I believe, there’s not one simple answer to that. Obviously, increased grants help fund capital needs. But normal everyday operation and maintenance costs need users to help fund the basic costs of treatment and delivery. Preferably, larger customers help and more customers help as well.
But regional efforts surely help reduce costs and increase efficiency for all users. We have fewer administrators and staff with less equipment which requires us to be mindful of our resources!