New report finds 3.6% increase in combined tariffs


Across the United States average combined tariffs have risen by 3.6% since 2017, according to a new white paper entitled The Global Value of Water, published by GWI.

However, some cities have implemented much larger rises, with Miami’s combined tariff increasing by 47% and Pittsburgh by 34%. The white paper found that Portland (Oregon) had the most expensive water tariff in the country at $30.82/1000 gallons.

The white paper findings are based on the results of GWI’s 2018 Global Water Tariff Survey and were published in partnership with Arup and The Global Water Leaders Group (GWLG).

The 2018 survey is the most extensive yet carried out by GWI, calculating changes to the price of urban water and wastewater in 512 cities across 191 countries, based on a benchmark of an urban household of four using 4000 gallons/month.

The white paper details actions by US utilities to counter rising costs this year. Washington DC’s 11.4% combined tariff increase was fuelled by a 20.4% increase in wastewater bills, required to fund a $582.2 million wastewater infrastructure repair project.

Meanwhile, as water conservation efforts improve, many utilities are implementing tariff block structures that penalise high water consumers with expensive tariffs whilst simultaneously rewarding low consumers.

However, GWI found that reduced consumption places pressure on utilities revenues. For example, the white paper details how Miami’s combined tariff’s rose 47.2% as too many consumers fell into the lower threshold of block tariffs.

Following on from last year’s decision to implement a year-on-year rate increase, Pittsburgh’s combined tariff rose by 33.6%, following a 21% increase in 2017. The white paper authors explain that these increases are an attempt to raise the capital needed to replace and improve Pittsburgh’s water and wastewater infrastructure to reduce flooding and overflows.

Commenting on water tariffs in the US, Christopher Gasson, publisher at GWI noted that “US water tariffs are under pressure from increased investment needs and falling volume demand. Double digit annual increases in tariffs will need to become the norm or we will start to see multiple Flint-style crises each year.”

“What is standing in the way of that change is politics. Most mayors would prefer to gamble on everything being OK for the time being than putting up the price of water. Some cities are thinking creatively about solutions however. Pittsburgh, which narrowly avoided a catastrophic failure two years ago is moving towards third party tariff regulation by the public utility commission. Philadelphia is introducing income related tariffs to protect the poor. I think we will see more creativity in this area going forwards.”

Top ten US cities with the highest combined bills in 2018 include Portland, OR ($30.82), Juneau ($30.74), Honolulu ($29.75), Seattle ($29) and San Francisco ($28.94).

The top ten US cities with the largest increase in combined bills in 2017-2018 include Miami (47%), Pittsburgh (34%), Washington DC ($11%) and Louisville (10%).

The Global Water Tariff Survey calculates changes to the price of urban water and wastewater in 512 cities, based on a benchmark of an urban household of four using 4000 gallons/month.