Water Issues


B&V Water Report, Editorial Used to Persuade Council to Grant Water Rate Hike

When an unusual event happens once, it might catch your attention. When it happens twice, you begin to wonder if a pattern could be forming.

Such was the case with an editorial in a trade publication that was used – not once, but twice – to go before local water utility rate decision boards to make a strong case for needed rate increases. The editorial, written by Ted Rulseh, Editor of Treatment Plant Operator (TPO) magazine, asked the hard questions surrounding the lack of funding for water infrastructure. All of the information in the editorial was gleaned from the “2012 Strategic Directions in the U.S. Water Utility Industry Report,” issued by Black & Veatch.

TPO reported that a superintendent in a small Ohio town was planning on asking for a 6 percent rate increase before the local city council. After reading the TPO editorial – which argued the case that water infrastructure investment is not optional, but rather a matter of public health and quality of life – the superintendent copied the material and gave it to each council member and the mayor.

The council was so moved that it unanimously passed the rate increase. Rulseh reported that another water official from Texas used the same editorial in helping to build that water district’s request for a rate increase so as to keep infrastructure up to date and protect the public health.

Rulseh encouraged other readers to use the editorial, which included a link to the full Black & Veatch report, to make a strong case for investing in water infrastructure.    

“The consequences of letting our water-related systems go to seed are too dire even to image,” Rulseh wrote in his editorial. “If we assume, correctly, that clean water is life, then these facilities are more important than any other public infrastructure. And yet it appears to the industry’s leadership that the public is unwilling to pay what it costs to sustain them.”

In the Black & Veatch report, 85 percent of respondents said the average water consumers have little or no understanding of the gap between rates paid and the cost of providing water and wastewater services. Furthermore, nearly 30 percent expressed strong doubt that customers would be willing to pay higher rates needed for capital improvements, and another 20-plus percent didn’t know if they would.

Read the original TPO editorial, plus a follow up article. The full Black & Veatch report can be read at http://bv.com/survey.

  Subject Matter Experts:
John Chevrette, ChevretteJM@bv.com
  Cindy Wallis-Lage, Wallis-LageCL@bv.com