In Boston, Massachusetts, a city with history carved into every block, water and sewer rates have nearly doubled since 2000 in response to aging water and wastewater infrastructure that has been operating nearly as long as our country was founded. Boston is not unfamiliar with rate increases, and neither are their citizens. However, the municipal service as well as the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is still struggling with changing the mindset of nearly 700,000 citizens who use this service daily.
The safety and security of the nation’s water systems comes at a price, and ensuring clean, reliable water is vital for every community. While maintenance and upgrades to water and sewer infrastructure systems are necessary, people are still troubled with the idea of paying more for a service that is vital to every day existence.
For a city of this size, rate increases should not come as a surprise. Replacing withering water and sewer mains has taken a back seat to many city-planned improvements. Older cities, like Boston, suffer from this “lack of investment, delayed maintenance, and insufficient resources,” according to the Massachusetts’s Water Infrastructure Finance Commission’s 2012 report.
In the U.S. EPA’s most recent report, it is estimated that Massachusetts will require nearly $8 billion over 20 years to maintain the existing water infrastructure. However, this is a conservative estimate, as the true cost of providing safe and reliable water and sewer services is likely much higher.
Infrastructure failures are becoming more prevalent in the Boston community, costing the city even more money for infrastructure repairs. On April 17th, the streets in South Boston flooded due to a large water main break. The service disruption caused a large sinkhole that affected nearby residents and companies.
Steve McCurdy, director of municipal services for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, stated during an interview with The Associated Press, “The idea that people will pay more per month for cellphone service than they pay for their water and sewer…is a mindset we have to work to correct.”
Water and wastewater rate increases are necessary to help mitigate disruptions in service, and improve infrastructure to deliver clean, reliable water to everyone. While the nation’s oldest cities face challenges with maintaining their aging infrastructure, the greatest difficulty is conveying the importance of rate increases to properly manage these systems.
 Salsberg, Bob. Massachusetts Needs Billions to Ensure Clean Water. CBS Boston. http://boston.cbslocal.com/2015/09/27/massachusetts-needs-billions-to-ensure-clean-water/
 Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Massachusett’s Water Infrastructure: Toward Financial Sustainability. Water Infrastructure Finance Commission of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. http://www.mapc.org/sites/default/files/WIFC%20Report%20Final%20.pdf
 Graffin, Adam. Water Main Break Floods South Boston Streets. Universal Hub.http://www.universalhub.com/2016/water-main-break-floods-south-boston-streets
 Suburban Stats. Current Boston, Massachusetts Population, Demographics and stats in 2016, 2015. Suburban Stats. https://suburbanstats.org/population/massachusetts/how-many-people-live-in-boston
 Goslee, Kaitlin. $384 billion needed to maintain U.S. water system. WWLP-22News. http://wwlp.com/2015/09/28/384-billion-needed-to-maintain-u-s-water-system/
 CommonWealth Magazine. Carrying the Bay State’s water. CommonWealth Magazine. http://commonwealthmagazine.org/environment/carrying-the-bay-states-water/