Water Rates

Water rates and charges are a pillar of water utility management, and have an often misunderstood relationship with water efficiency and conservation. Declining water use trends have been poorly forecasted by water utilities in the past, leading to water conservation being incorrectly blamed as the sole reason for revenue shortfalls. This has been referred to as the “conservation conundrum” as rate setting practices have not adapted to the success of water conservation over the last several decades. This was the motivation for the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) to take on the rates issue. As a result, AWE has developed tools and resources to help water managers foster a better understanding of how to successfully achieve the goals of revenue stability and resource use efficiency. These tools and resources include a Rates Handbook, Sales Forecasting and Rates Model, Case Studies, and consumer communications messages and videos. These materials are available free of charge at Financing Sustainable Water

Rate setting is part of a complex process that includes demand forecasting, cost of service analysis, customer class cost allocation, and determining revenue requirements. There are also political and regulatory factors at play. Additionally, water providers are natural monopolies and rates must be reasonable and prudent, and equitable and nondiscriminatory.