Why are water costs rising?

iStock_000003907033MediumUS water sewer service provider

Rising water costs have been affecting homeowners across North America. According to a 2013 article on CBC News, “in June 2012, the average home used 192 cubic metres of water.” While that number is quite an improvement over the average usage in 2005, which was 256 cubic metres, that decrease has not translated to a reduced cost for the homeowner. Instead, average rates have increased by more than $150 annually.

Water rate increases are nothing new. Many utilities are finding the increases are necessary to make repairs to aging infrastructure, such as Halifax Water, who faced a $2.6 billion bill for upgrades to the outdated water and sewer system in 2013. Their proposed increase would bring the average water bill to $842.87 per year for homeowners.

As water rates continue to rise, protecting private infrastructure becomes more important each day. Repairing a break or leak may seem simple, but if left unattended, could cost you thousands of dollars in not only repair costs, but also lost water. With any kind of water leak, your money is just dripping away and contributing to the overall rise in rates.

Water rates are driven by a variety of factors such as:

  • Upgrades to aging water systems to ensure you are receiving safe drinking water
  • Increased operation costs, including staff, electric, chemical treatment, infrastructure upgrades and fuel
  • Government rules and regulations, including water protection systems
  • Unique geographic conditions and circumstances that could limit availability, such as drought, areas prone to natural disasters, etc.

With many areas experiencing record-breaking drought conditions, water conservation has become extremely important, dictating extensive infrastructure improvements to fix failing pipelines to protect this precious resource.

Ultimately, when repairs need to be made to infrastructure, the cost is passed down to the consumer by raising rates in an effort to ensure adequate infrastructure repairs and upgrades are not left undone, costing consumers more in the long run.

As far as protection from the high cost of rising water bills, homeowners who conserve water can decrease their water bill. (Check out our previous blog articles about water conservation in the home and yard.) However, water conservation provides only some protection. While consumption may drop, increases in the cost of production, supply and operations may still result in an increased cost for the consumer. Additionally, some water companies in drought-stricken areas in the United States have imposed additional fees on customers who use more than an identified amount of water per month. In California, fines have even been imposed on those wasting water.

As a homeowner, your infrastructure is subject to the same failure potential as that of municipal infrastructure. When private water and sewer lines fail, the repair cost could be thousands of dollars, depending on the length of the line, the location of the line and the problem – costs the homeowner would be responsible for. For many homeowners, it’s not “if these private lines fail” – it’s “when these private lines fail, how will I handle the repair?” Homeowners who want to be prepared have options. They can add funds for service line repairs to their rainy day fund, or they can choose to enroll in warranty programs such as those offered by Service Line Warranties of Canada. For more information about Service Line Warranties of Canada’s programs, visit www.slwofc.ca.

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