Water costs to businesses: no longer as arbitrary as a lemonade stand

Remember that lemonade stand you had as a child? The price, depending on your current age, was anywhere from 10 cents to 25 cents per glass. For that price, your thirsty customers got a true bargain, whether they knew it or not. First, there was the cost of the lemonade mix—or the lemons, if you were so inclined. If it was not presweetened, you had the cost of the sugar. Then there was the cost of the paper or Styrofoam cup. Finally, there was the cost of a gallon or so of water from your parent’s tap. If you’re like many kids you had no idea of these items’ costs because they were simply given to you by a parent eager to get you out of the house on a fine summer’s day.

Your business savvy has no doubt grown since then. You know the cost of your raw goods, your labor, and your taxes. You know what it costs to sell your goods or services.

But if you’re like many businesses, you still don’t calculate the true value of one of your most important inputs: water.  Fret not; tools and innovations are becoming available to change that.

A US Environmental Protection Agency report released this week on the importance of water to the U.S. economy confirms that while water is a relative bargain, it is often under-appreciated and under-valued by businesses and consumers alike. As a consequence, water is too often used frivolously or at least without full appreciation of what should happen if it became unavailable.

Writes the US EPA in the November 2013 report, The Importance of Water to the US Economy:

“[T]he prices associated with the use of water generally are an inaccurate measure of the resource’s true value, which can lead to inefficient water use. Examining these prices may provide insights into the relative value of water in different uses, or to changing expectations regarding water’s long-term value. It is unlikely, however, to provide a reliable basis for characterizing water’s absolute value in any particular use.”

Fortunately, the EPA report notes, US businesses—including some of the biggest water users—are starting to account for their water use similarly to the way they account for energy inputs. And businesses must anticipate the risk of how water interruptions and scarcity could impact their bottom lines.

It is no wonder that many businesses locate within proximity to a reliable drought-proof or flood-proof water source and are increasingly becoming advocates for water reliability projects.

United Water and its parent company, SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT, are on the vanguard of water-saving innovations, including smarter water metering, which can help water users better understand, control and manage their water use and identify areas where the system is being burdened by waste and water theft.

Additionally, United Water partners with the US EPA as part of its WaterSense program which works with manufacturers, retailers and distributors, and utilities to bring WaterSense labeled products to the marketplace and make it easy to purchase high-performing, water-efficient products. WaterSense also partners with irrigation professionals and irrigation certification programs to promote water-efficient landscape irrigation practices.

Those of us in the water industry have long been concerned about a dangerous gap between the challenges our nations’ water supply currently faces and the willingness of our nation’s cities, towns and customers to address these challenges to secure, conserve and better manage this inexpensive and reliable resource. A heightened attention to water challenges by business leaders and the industrial backbones of our communities will bring much needed attention to a resource that has heretofore been underfunded and undervalued.

We are pleased that the U.S. EPA has raised awareness about the need for a discussion on better public and private sector collaboration and The Importance of Water to the US Economy.

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