In a recent study conducted by Circle of Blue, a worldwide water information and collaboration center, it was made apparent that water and sewer rates are surging across the United States at an alarming rate. Overall, both water and sewer rates have increased by more than 30 percent in just the past decade while some cities, such as Baltimore, have more than doubled in that same time.
The trend of snowballing rate increases stems from the aging conveyance infrastructure underneath each city. Water utility providers are coming to the realization that the rebuilding or improvements needed for their infrastructure will not be coming from the federal government, especially in the wake of COVID-19. With most of the available funding being put on hold or diverted towards addressing the health concerns and economic revitalization across the country, the aging infrastructure problem continues to pose a threat to clean water delivery to citizens.
Cities like San Francisco and their Public Utilities Commission are at the end of their $4.8 billion infrastructure investment and the hope is that it will carry over to less volatile rate increases for residents. “We’re over the hump as far as capital project rate increases are concerned,” said Erin Franks, SFPUC’s acting rates administrator. Since 2011, the city’s rates increased between 6 and 18 percent annually with most of the additional revenue going towards the big infrastructure improvements. The major concern of most providers is the balancing act between reasonable rates and appropriate spending so as not to create an affordability issue for households at the bottom of the income distribution. “We’re concerned about affordability, but we can’t let the infrastructure decay,” said Franks.
This past year, the cost of approximately 50 gallons of water has gone up the most in the following cities:
1. Fresno, California led the way with a 14.7 percent increase.
2. Baltimore, 9.7 percent
3. Chicago, 9.6 percent
4. San Jose, California, 8 percent
5. Tucson, Arizona, 7.9 percent
6. Phoenix, 7.5 percent
7. San Francisco, 7.4 percent
 Walton, Brett. “Price of Water 2019: Even Without Federal Infrastructure Deal, Cities Continue to Invest.” Circle of Blue, 16 June 2020, https://www.circleofblue.org/2019/world/2019-price-of-water/
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