State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

What Do You Pay for Water?

In the US we spend on average $3.75 for every 1,000 gallons. However, averages are misleading –  prices range from $1.30 in Phoenix to over $7.70 in Columbus Ohio.

This map below shows relative pricing for the 30 largest US municipalities. Take a look at Florida (Miami $1.60) compared to the relatively water rich east coast (New York $3.10), or try Chicago ($9.25) versus Detroit ($14.00).

Monthly rate at 5,250 gallons per month
Monthly rate at 5,250 gallons per month


I am surprised by the disparity across cities, even for cities that have relatively similar hydrological, treatment,  and infrastructure characteristics. This disparity has both an economic and political component. Population density, infrastructure age, and local water sources impact pricing; however, legacy and political issues also play a very important role.

I am currently working with some of the municipalities to better understand their pricing methods. Some cities have “inefficient” pricing that does not seem to cover the cost of operation and maintenance while others appear economically sustainable.

As I gather more data, I expect the topic of this post will change from, “What Do We Pay for Water?”, to, “What SHOULD We Pay for Water?” Stay tuned.

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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