Water conservation programs, improved technologies and water-saving fixtures have made great strides in saving our most valuable resource. The downside, however, is declining revenue for water utilities. And that revenue was already variable, while fixed costs keep rising. As a result, we may not see savings in our water bills.
In Hampton Roads from 2002 to 2012, water use in the region dropped from 127 million gallons per day (mgd) to 115 mgd. This 10% decrease occurred while we gained more than 105,000 people. Based on this data, per capita water use has decreased by 15% over ten years. Water and sewer bills are all based on water use. As it drops, water and sewer providers struggle with shrinking income.
Citizens want to see lower bills based on their conservation efforts and that is not always the case. Moving forward, utilities will have to juggle customers’ ability to pay with the rising costs of pipe repair and replacement, as well as water treatment. This issue will be a topic of area water utilities in the coming months and years. The HRPDC’s Directors of Utilities Committee has explored this issue, looking at local and national strategies to manage this revenue gap. For more information, view the HRPDC’s issue summary and report: Water & Wastewater Utilities: Designing the Rate Structure of the Future.