• 07.01.13

The Price Of Water Keeps Going Up, Which Is Bad, Because We Need Water To Live

Because of poor infrastructure and management, cities around the country are seeing water bills skyrocket. And it’s just going to get worse.

The price of water has been rising faster than for other utilities. Water is less like electricity or gas, and more like cable. And, in some cases, the increases are pretty jaw-dropping. Chicago, for instance, pushed through a 25% jump in 2012, and a further 15.1% rise this year. Across 30 cities, water prices, on average, have climbed 25% since 2010–far above inflation levels.


The figures are from Circle of Blue, an innovative journalism-cum-advocacy shop that focuses on water issues around the world. It has been tracking water prices in the U.S.’s 20 largest cities, plus 10 regionally representative ones, for four years now. And you can see the latest numbers in the charts here. They are for a family of four, consuming a “medium” 100 gallons per person, per day.

Austin (22%), and Tucson, Arizona (17.6%) had the biggest increases compared to 2012. Los Angeles (12.4%), San Francisco (12.8%) and Charlotte (10.8%) were also in the double digits. In some cities, the changes varied dramatically according to usage. L.A households using less than 50 gallons per day per head saw bills rise a heinous 17.3%. Other cities changed their rate structures to incentivize less usage: 50 gallon families in Austin, for example, actually paid 0.5% less last year than in 2012.

As Brett Walton writes at the Circle of Blue web site, the main reason for the skyrocketing prices is a backlog of infrastructure repairs, and that the federal government no longer subsidizes cities for the work. The Environmental Protection Agency says cities will have to invest $384 million by 2030 to keep the water running, and almost of all of that will have to come from users. Expect prices to keep going up.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.