Value of Water
Believe it or not, water is undervalued in many parts of the country. In fact, about 30 percent of American water utilities set the price of water so low that they regularly operate at a loss or a deficit.
How We Pay for Water
Water utilities, like any business, need to pay for operating expenses such as electricity, treatment chemicals, maintenance, and employee wages. On average, about 70 percent of your water bill goes to your water utility’s operating expenses.
Recouping operating expenses is a priority for Pennsylvania's municipalities and water managers, but so is keeping rates affordable for all residents. Currently, the average marginal rate for water supplied to the home of a Pennsylvania family is roughly $3.30 per thousand gallons. However, the factors that ultimately set the price differ from community to community.
Many private water utilities that serve smaller rural communities lack the commercial and industrial customers that help keep costs to residents low. These utilities are sometimes forced to charge residents nearly double the national average to recoup operating expenses. In fact, some rural Pennsylvanians pay more than $5 per thousand gallons of water used in their homes. In these communities, reducing the amount of water used in the home makes twice as much sense.
Paying for Water More Than Once
But the price you pay for the water to be delivered to your home is only part of your water’s true value. In fact, homeowners pay for the water they use in their homes as many as three times! That’s because homeowners pay to receive, heat, and treat their water. Say you're the average Pennsylvanian homeowner and your household uses about 2,000 gallons of water in the shower each month. That means you pay roughly $6 a month to your water utility for that water to be delivered. You also pay about the same amount in sewer bills to treat the water that goes down the shower drain. Finally, you pay up to $30 more in electricity bills to heat that water. Add in hot water used for faucets and in washing clothes and dishes and the average Pennsylvanian household can spend more than $400 a year just on electricity used to heat water.
Although industrial manufacturers pay less per unit of water than Pennsylvanian households, they also use much higher quantities of water and large amounts of energy associated with using water. Manufacturers can use a lot of energy to heat water turning it into steam or making it do work. Reducing water use in manufacturing facilities can save businesses even more money and makes just as much sense as residential water conservation!
We can add up the dollars it takes to transport, heat, and treat water, but we all know clean and available water is priceless. Water resources in Pennsylvania allow diverse ecosystems to thrive and provide countless recreational opportunities. Above all, our water resources are essential to maintaining the health and well-being of all our fellow citizens. These are the most important reasons to protect our water resources. They are what give water its true value.