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Easing the High Water Bill Burden

February 15, 2024

Remember when you could wash your car in the driveway on a sunny Saturday morning without giving it a moment’s thought? Now, you have to worry about water restrictions, judgmental glances from neighbors, and, more recently, bigger water bills. Across 50 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas, the average monthly household water bills increased to $49.53, and monthly sewer bills reached $71.16, based on average household water consumption.1 These increases have many Americans watching their water habits more carefully to curb costs, but there are also millions who, in the face of rising and unaffordable water bills, are at risk of being disconnected. Below, we share some reasons for high water bills and some solutions that consumers and utilities can implement to soften the impact.

The Dynamics Behind Water Billing Woes

Though the reasons for rate increases vary from place to place, according to Bluefield Research, higher labor, chemicals, and materials costs have been among the most cited reasons for increases in water rates. Other catalysts include inflation, supply chain disruptions, the cost of ongoing maintenance, and replacing aging infrastructure, like older pipes.2 But lesser-known pressures have also come into play more recently, like responses to climate change. Increasingly, communities must keep larger water stores in preparation for extended droughts and mitigate the risks and damage of wildfires. Regardless of the reasons, the result is that these increased costs are being passed on to water utility customers.3

Affordability Concerns Gripping Many Households

The impact rising water rates have on consumers ranges from a minor blip in their bank accounts to choosing between groceries and keeping the water on. In 787 communities served by the United States’ largest utilities, 17% of households find it challenging to afford basic water services.4 Affordable is defined as less than 4.6% percent of monthly income or the equivalent of a day’s labor at minimum wage.5 Some utilities have implemented assistance programs especially aimed at helping low-income or elderly resident households manage their water bills to reduce the burden.

Water Is A Scarce Resource, and Usage Is High

Look at a globe; you’ll notice a lot more blue than green. That’s because 71% of the Earth's surface is water. The catch is that only 3% is freshwater, and a fraction (0.4%) of it is accessible to humans.6 That fraction is in high demand. The average American uses over 100 gallons of water per day, and the average residence uses over 100,000 gallons during a year.7 The thirstiest culprits in our homes are the gardens and lawns, guzzling an astonishing 60% of yearly household water usage.8 Alarmingly, amidst all this water use, an estimated one trillion gallons of precious water is lost annually to household leaks,9 which is a loss of a vital resource and an unnecessary addition to the water bill. This emphasizes the critical need for water conservation and leak prevention to ensure a sustainable future.

Making Every Drop Count - Strategies for Consumers and Utilities

Here are some things consumers can do to reduce their water consumption:

  • Shorter Showers: Take showers that are five minutes or less.
  • Timely and Wise Irrigation: Water gardens and lawns during cooler parts of the day to minimize evaporation.
  • Leak Management: Be vigilant about checking for leaks in faucets, showerheads, pipes, and toilets, and address any issues promptly.
  • Mindful Usage: Turn off the tap while brushing teeth, washing hands, or scrubbing dishes. 
  • Water-Efficient Fixtures: Install low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and high-efficiency toilets.
  • Rainwater Harvesting: Set up systems to capture rainwater, which can then be used for watering gardens, landscaping, and even flushing toilets.
  • Better Water Management: Continuously look for and adopt improved water use and management practices for both the short and long term.

Utilities also play a significant role in assisting consumers to reduce water wastage and manage high water bills through various initiatives:

  • Leak Detection Programs: Implement advanced leak detection technologies to identify and repair leaks in the water distribution system, reducing overall water loss.
  • Water Usage Reports: Provide customers with regular water usage reports to help them recognize their consumption patterns and make informed water-use decisions.
  • Education Campaigns: Launch educational programs to raise awareness about the value of water, the importance of conservation, and practical tips for reducing waste.
  • Assistance Programs: Implement programs specifically designed to assist low-income or elderly households with water bills.

Analytics Play an Important Role in Water Management 

Our water analytics tool KUBRA Dropcountr™ equips consumers with user-friendly web tools and a mobile app. These resources are designed to help enhance consumers’ Water IQ, fostering greater awareness around household water use and even notifying them of potential leaks. Utilities appreciate our cloud-based customer engagement and analytics solution, as it provides deeper insights into customer behaviors and facilitates direct communication with their customers through email, text messages, and push notifications.

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  1. Typical household water, sewer bills increased 56% since 2012, Bluefield Research, 2023.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Why Does My Water Bill Keep Going Up?, Yahoo Finance, 2023.
  4. 17 Percent of U.S. Households Face Growing Water Affordability Challenge, Duke Today, 2023.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Water Facts - Worldwide Water Supply, Bureau of Reclamation.
  7. Water Facts, Department of Public Health - Drinking Water Section.
  8. Outdoor Water Use in the United States, WaterSense.
  9. Fix a Leak Week, WaterSense.





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