Increases in Water, Wastewater Rates Outpacing Rise in Consumer Price Index

Escalating utility costs in the U.S. are boosting rates for customers, according to the American Water Works Association's 2019 Water and Wastewater Rate Survey

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The American Water Works Association’s most recent Water and Wastewater Rate Survey is now available. The survey reveals that average increases in drinking water and wastewater charges continue to outpace the rise in the U.S. Consumer Price Index. 

Between the 2016 and 2018 surveys, charges increased 7.2% for water and 7.5% for wastewater. During the same span, the Consumer Price Index increased 4.6%. Between 1996 and 2018, charges increased 5.09% annually for water and 5.64% annually for wastewater. This compares to an annual 2.1% increase in the CPI over the same period. 

“Water rates need to be fair and equitable, and they must also generate the necessary revenue to confront today’s water challenges, including maintaining, replacing and expanding water infrastructure,” says AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “At the same time, we must always be mindful of households that struggle to meet basic expenses and may need assistance.”  

AWWA’s 2012 Buried No Longer report found that the cost of repairing and expanding U.S. drinking water infrastructure would top $1 trillion over 25 years. 

The rates survey revealed that midsized utilities have the lowest water rates and smaller water utilities have the lowest wastewater rates. Within the United States, median water charges are the highest in the West while median wastewater charges are the highest in the Northeast. The Midwest has the lowest water and wastewater charges. 

The survey collected data from over 230 water and over 100 wastewater utilities from the United States and Canada in 2018. Most utilities were municipal and varied in size from 1,000 to 5 million customers served. 

The survey provides comprehensive and current water and wastewater utility rates and financial data and analyses. It is divided into several parts, concentrating on the survey’s methodology, key findings and observations and data summary exhibits. AWWA and Raftelis Financial Consultants have produced a biennial survey of water and wastewater charges for North American utilities since 2002.


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