water bills rise, utilities struggle for funds
June 11, 2012|Deborah
Zabarenko | Reuters
- With water bills on the rise even as consumers are being urged to use
less, more than 70 percent of water companies either lack the funds to
maintain aging infrastructure or have just enough to meet requirements,
a new industry survey reports.
Much of the
financial pressure on water utilities comes from the price of energy,
which accounts for as much as 30 percent of their operating costs,
according to the survey released on Tuesday by Black & Veatch, a
$2.6 billion global engineering business that designs water systems.
One big concern is
infrastructure, such as pipes, treatment plants, pumps and equipment,
said Ralph Eberts, the company's executive vice president for global
"We get to
situations where you have infrastructure that's breaking, it creates
chaos for our cities," Eberts said in a telephone interview. "
... We've got to get investments in place to get those problems fixed.
boils down to, the price of water's going to have to go up, and the
public needs to understand why that is."
These financial and
public relations pressures come as population growth increases demand
for water globally, especially in the developing world where usage is
expected to rise by 50 percent between 2007 and 2025, according to the
World Resources Institute.
The problem is that
The survey found 34
About 85 percent of
respondents said average water consumers had little to no understanding
of the gap between what they pay and how much it costs
to provide water and wastewater services.
In the developed
world -- the
"We've kind of
gotten so used to it, it's kind of routine, people forget the costs
associated with it," he said.
But in developing
countries, where clean, readily available water may be relatively new,
there is a greater appreciation of its cost, he said.
collectively need to stop taking water for granted and start seeing it
as a core part of a sustainable future," said Betsy Otto of the
World Resources Institute, commenting on the survey's results. Otto is
director of Aqueduct, an online tool that maps water risk.
In Europe and
(Reporting By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)