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...

How do we articulate the value of an invaluable resource – water?

Most tap water in this country – including the safe and reliable water provided to United Water’s millions of customers – costs less than a penny a gallon. But water is the essence of life; no person, animal, planet, business or society can survive without it. Surely, water’s value – and the convenience of having readily available safe water – is far higher than its cost.  Herein lies the conundrum: many of us don’t value things that are cheap and available. Many of us – Americans in particular – tend to take water for granted. 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 this inexpensive and reliable resource. Specifically many communities across the U.S. are relying on an aging water infrastructure which is in need of repair or replacement. It is estimated that there is one water main break every two minutes in the United States, and that cities and towns across the nation must invest $1.3 trillion in repairs and upgrades over the next 25 years. United Water is preparing to tackle the infrastructure challenge by making nearly $1 billion in capital investments over the next five years in its own systems and in city systems that leverage private capital through the SOLUTIONSM model. Through SOLUTIONSM United Water can attract long-term private investment for cities that choose to improve their municipal water and environmental systems. Because much of our nation’s water system lies unseen underground, in...

The Price of Sustainable Water Service: a Not-So-Simple Calculation

Circle of Blue, a leading information source on water issues, published an article earlier this summer entitled “The Price of Water, A Comparison of Water Rates and Usage in 30 US Cities” by Brett Walton. The article explores the different factors determining the cost of water services. There are countless factors contributing to the cost of water service: customers’ proximity to the water, the cities’ per capita water consumption, the regions’ yearly precipitation, government subsidies, and many more. As expected, the cost of water service varies dramatically across the country.  For an average family of four using 150 gallons per day or 4,500 gallons per month; the monthly cost of water service ranges from $27 to $224. In most American cities, water use is declining while rates charged are rising. Since less water is being used, utility companies must raise prices for customers to provide for their costs. Western states, however, may feel the present changes less than other states. The federal government invested in major water infrastructure projects in the West over 50 years ago. The price of water service is artificially low in these areas and customers are more likely to experience “rate shock” to bridge the cost gap when investments and infrastructure repairs are made. Proximity to water also determines water rates. Moving water takes energy and therefore energy costs are higher in drought-prone regions. Whereas the Great Lakes region, for example, may have lower energy costs associated with water delivery because of its close proximity to its water sources. Also contributing to water service costs is crumbling water infrastructure; some of which has been in...
How Much Does a Glass of Water Really Cost?

How Much Does a Glass of Water Really Cost?

    When we think of water, we often believe it to be an endless natural resource. After all almost two-third of this earth is water. Think again! Only one percent of all the world’s water can be used for drinking. Rest of it is unusable, which makes water a very precious resource that needs to be conserved. Despite this drinking water costs us the least as compared to other household utilities. In most households, combined water and sewer bills average only about 0.5 percent of household income. Moreover, in United States, the quality of drinking water is highly regulated and is as good as bottled water. Eight glasses a day from bottled water costs you approximately $1,400 annually. The same amount of tap water would cost about 49 cents. At United Water we work hard every day to ensure that our customers get safe and reliable drinking water everyday. Our water supply comes from clean and protected watersheds, reservoirs and wells. Our goal is to continue delivering safe, great-tasting drinking water at a significant value to our customers that meet or exceed all state and federal standards....