State Street Reconstruction | Madison, WI

The Cost of Clean Water

Tom Fitzwilliams | with 0 Comments

The Cost of Clean Water

Recently, MSA’s Sewer User Charge Survey was mentioned in the article, The Infrastructure Crisis is a Pricing Crisis, by G. Tracy Mehan, III. Mr. Mehan shares an insightful assessment of the current state of water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure:  
“Domestically, the utility sectors – water, wastewater and stormwater – are suffering from inadequate investments in needed infrastructure and operations & maintenance (O&M), below-cost water rates, declining water consumption (not necessarily a bad thing), and the hangover of the Great Recession. Federal, state and local governments are struggling with their budgets and the long-term crisis of escalating entitlements and under-funded pension funds and health plans for public employees.” 

“Let me state my thesis directly and up front. The federal government is broke and unlikely to come to the rescue to any meaningful extent for the foreseeable future absent serious entitlement reform. We are left with the imperative of utilities educating their customers and ratepayers as to the full value of their invaluable service, and the pressing need to support robust water rates and prices commensurate with its true value. In addition, we are going to have more fully and effectively utilize those financial assets that we already possess, specifically the state revolving loan funds under the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts.”
Read the article “The Infrastructure Crisis is a Pricing Crisis” in its entirety here.

In MSA's survey, the correlation between the cost of clean water and the cost of non-essential services leads one to believe there is room to raise the cost of what people pay for something as basic to our survival as clean water.
It starts with education and changing the way people think about these services. As Mehan indicated, we need a “new and more accurate and compelling service model of pricing.” Working with communities to educate the public about the true cost of depreciation or replacement of sewer and water infrastructure is imperative.

Municipal officials use MSA’s Wisconsin Sewer User Charge Surveys, conducted since 1996, to compare their sewer rates with other similarly-sized communities in their geographic area. The survey gives them a basis for making the often unpopular decision to increase utility rates. Our 2013 survey also demonstrated that, compared to the cost of other utilities and elective services, unlimited access to safe water and the responsible treatment of our residuals is still a relative bargain. Stay tuned for our eighth survey which will be published in Spring 2016.
For more information on Wisconsin’s Sewer User Charge Surveys, contact MSA’s Tom Fitzwilliams.

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