When you think about water you often think in terms of the availability of it and the fact that it is one of the very last resources that we have that is free, or is it? Although there is an abundance of water around us, using it or consuming it has become anything but free. Whether you are buying your drinking water because your tap water is not pure enough, or you are paying to have your tap water pumped into your home, water is a commodity, which like anything else, has its own price tag. It is not shocking that as everything else in the economy continues to inflate in price, water is right alongside. With a reported increase in 30 major cities of as much as 25 percent over the past four years, there is reason to be concerned that there is no end in sight for where it could rise to.
So what is making the price of water skyrocket?
As cities and demographics continue to shift new systems need to be built to accommodate those changes. That means expense for cities and their inhabitants. With the overall water scarcity worldwide it is becoming increasingly difficult to get water to where it needs to be. Overpopulated systems are continually taxing old delivery supplies which require updates. There is a reported main water break in a city across the nation once every two minutes. The old water delivery supplies built under the cities over decades ago are not able to withstand the tide of new growth, nor the environmental punishment of aging and erosion. It is estimated that to bring all the cities waterway systems up to standards it would cost well over a trillion dollars spanning over the proceeding 25 years.
The people who are shouldering the cost of updating and renovation are middle class households, who are seeing their water bills rise to astronomical amounts. When you average the cost of water utilities across the nation, it is reported that there has been a 25% increase in the cost in just 4 years, and there is no end to where it is going.
Although there are federal mandates in place for the regulation of the standards of drinking water and supplies, there is no federal funds available. That means that the burden falls solely on the states, and in turn the residents of the states who are paying for the distribution of the water. In a shocking announcement just this week, the EPA has admitted that it is going to cost upwards of 384 billion dollars to maintain the service needed to supply water until the year 2030. That includes redoing and replacing deteriorating systems and firehoses for fire safety in cities around the nation.
The problem then becomes that if the government doesn’t have the funds, and the states don’t have the funds, the consumer is going to have to pick up the eventual cost of all the work that needs to be taken on. When you consider that there are going to be states that will consume more than their fair share such as Houston and Tucson, where is the average resident going to come up with that kind of overture in their monthly budget. Other things which are affecting the rate of increase are situations such as in Chicago where old pipes and deteriorating plumbing is causing a rate increase of over 30% in one year for the residents that live within the city.
The perceptions of consumption
With so many initiates in place to try to spread the word about consumption we are beginning to see a change in the way that people are using water. Due to the high price structure, many are using less water than ever before. Gone are the days when there are people out feeding their lawn an endless supply of water during the hot summer months. Changing perceptions are finally catching up to the public when it comes to the commodity of water. It is not only the environmental issues that has people concerned, it is the high cost of usage that is hitting people hard.
A new way to find funds
Since the communities of the nation which need water most desperately can’t shoulder the cost of it on their own, there is a new initiative to share the preverbal problem nationwide. There is a push to rebalance revenues of cities so as to not see instability in some locales due to the demands of the cost of waterway systems. Instead of using a pay per system, many utilities are considering using a flat rate to distribute the cost among residents instead of the concentration of just a few. The new shift in flat rate is showing some success in those areas which are seeing the highest raises in cost and it is having a stabilizing effect on those city’s economic conditions.
The biggest concern that we have in this country at present time is not that there is a scarcity of water worldwide alone. The waterways that were built so many decades ago were not planned for the influx that we are seeing into and out of cities. The limitations of the materials also have put many systems into peril and in need of upgrading and repair work. The problem is that with a lack luster economy and many Americans already finding their disposable income anything but, it is becoming incredibly difficult for a small select few to shoulder the cost of a nation full of water system demands and needs.
Over the next decade much planning and infrastructure changes will need to be made. With no money left in the budget at the federal level it will be up to the states to be more innovative and find ways to find monies that won’t place too much burden on those who are already suffering most, the middle class.