Value of Water

With California now in a fourth consecutive year of drought, water is in the spotlight like never before. As communities throughout the state work to achieve state-mandated urban water conservation targets this summer, many Californians are rethinking how they use water on a daily basis – both inside and outside their homes.

The drought underscores the essential role water plays in our daily lives, yet few people stop to consider the extensive delivery systems and advanced treatment facilities involved in supplying safe, reliable water to your home 24 hours a day.

Depending on where you live in California, your water may come from a nearby well or river. Or it may travel hundreds of miles through canals or pipelines to reach your tap. Regardless of where it originates, your tap water is filtered, cleaned, tested and distributed in an exhaustive process that produces some of the highest quality drinking water in the nation and the world.

In most communities, all of this happens at a cost of less than a penny per gallon at the tap for customers of California’s local public water agencies. That makes tap water service an incredible value, especially when compared to bottled water and other everyday products and services.

Water is great value in California. But the cost to treat and deliver water to your tap is going up. Here are some of the factors contributing to increased costs:

  • Extra costs and reduced revenues as a result of the drought. Droughts are costly for local water agencies. Expanded public outreach, enforcement of water use restrictions and acquiring supplemental supplies are just some of the drought-related costs agencies are incurring this year. In addition, mandatory water conservation is resulting in reduced revenues for water agencies this year. Since agencies must continue to pay the fixed costs of operating their systems – regardless of the amount of water sold – and absorb additional drought-related costs, it is necessary for many agencies to rais
  • Rising treatment costs. Increasingly stringent drinking water regulations add to the cost of providing water.
  • Aging water infrastructure. Repairing and upgrading aging pipelines, pumps and other facilities accounts for a significant portion of monthly water bills.
  • Increasing energy costs. It takes lots of electricity to pump, treat and deliver water. Rising costs for energy directly affect the cost of delivering water to you.
  • Cost of developing new supplies. Monthly water bills reflect the cost of producing recycled water and securing other new water supply sources.
  • Invasive species. Some water suppliers are now spending millions of dollars annually to contain the spread of invaders such as quagga mussels that clog and compromise pipelines and water facilities.

Customers of public water agencies get more than just a product for their money. They are getting reliable service that includes ongoing maintenance, sophisticated water quality testing and treatment, and highly trained personnel. Simply put, they are getting one of the best deals around.

A recent segment for public television produced by Huell Howser and underwritten by ACWA members showcases the value of water and, especially when compared to other everday household produces and services. View "Water: The Best Deal Around."

For more information, download Fast Facts on the Value of Water Service. (June 2015)

New materials for ACWA members:

ACWA has developed a variety of materials to help members communicate the value of water locally.

Click here for a library of sample Prop 218 Notices and corresponding documents. (Updated: April 2013 - Member sign-in required.)

Click here for Sample op-eds, letters to the editor and more. (Updated: November 2012 - Member sign-in required.)

Click here for the September 2011 Value of Water toolkit. (Member sign-in required.)

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