Cost of Clean Water Index Shows Continued Increase, Doubling Rate of Inflation

(June 10, 2020) – NACWA’s 2019 Cost of Clean Water Index, released May 29, indicates that the average cost of wastewater services rose 3.8 percent in 2019, more than doubling the rate of inflation over the same period.

The national average cost for wastewater services for a single-family residence is now $512 per year. This is the 18th consecutive year that the increase in charges has outpaced inflation, though the increase has been more moderate – less than 4 percent – for the past few years compared to the 2004-2014 time period, during which the average increase was close to 6 percent.

NACWA’s Index indicates that clean water utilities are expecting average charges to continue to increase from 3.4 to 3.8 percent per year for the next five years. Capital repair and replacement and associated costs of debt-financing were the top reasons cited for larger projected rate increases. Other related drivers included consent decree compliance, nutrient requirements and increases in operation and maintenance (O&M) costs.

The survey was conducted in late 2019 and early 2020, and the results do not reflect any potential financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The average annual sewer charge of $512 represents 2.0 percent of the 2018 Federal poverty income threshold ($25,750) for a family of four. This proportion has risen from 1.3 percent in 2000. Projected increases in rates show the average charge exceeding $600 by 2023.

More details on the national average and breakdowns by EPA region are available on NACWA’s website. Members with any questions can contact Chris Hornback, NACWA’s Deputy CEO.