Monday, August 02, 2010

Sharpen your irrigation skills as the era of cheap water approaches

The significance of the results of a recent survey by Black & Veatch should be obvious to anyone in the business of installing or maintaining irrigation systems. The price of water is going go up, up, up so the need for irrigation that doesn’t waste water (i.e. money) is growing, growing, growing.

In other words, the era of cheap water may be coming to an abrupt end.

Black & Veatch’s 50 Largest Cities Water and Wastewater Rate Survey indicates the average annual increase in typical residential water bills is approximately 5.3% from 2001 through 2009, while the increase in typical residential sewer bills is approximately 5.5%.

“This survey is a tool for managers of water infrastructure to see how their rates compare with national trends,” said John Kersten, Associate Vice President and Water Industry Lead in Black & Veatch’s management consulting division. “The primary source of income for these utilities to pay for operating, maintaining, expanding and updating their infrastructure is through water and sewer rate collections, which must be continuously adjusted to address rising costs.”

A key finding of the survey is that water and wastewater bills for residential use across the country have increased at a steady rate since 2001 – when Black & Veatch began producing the survey.

This trend correlates with findings from The 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), showing approximately $2.2 trillion of investment is needed to improve vital infrastructure over the next five years. Overall, America’s grade is a cumulative “D” as noted by the ASCE.

Black & Veatch’s analysis cites five key issues that influence rates and sheds more detail around the value of water and wastewater services and the solutions needed to address these two areas of vital infrastructure:

— Commodity price increases. Primarily in electricity, chemicals and natural gas costs. A leading contributor to operating and maintenance costs of water and wastewater facilities - highlighting the important inter-relationship or nexus of water and energy.

— Lower consumption and high fixed cost. In general, demand or a consumer’s usage is declining while many utility costs, such as debt service, are fixed. Since most pricing structures include volume-based charges, revenues are declining while costs are not.

— Benefits. Pension obligations and health care benefits are prompting an increase in labor costs.

— Influence of wastewater legal action. Significant capital programs are being implemented in most major cities to comply with legal; action related to system performance.

— Aging infrastructure. Updating and replacing aging infrastructure are significant costs for most water and sewer utilities, as noted in the ASCE report available at:

Black & Veatch Corporation is a leading global engineering, consulting and construction company specializing in infrastructure development in energy, water, telecommunications, federal, management consulting and environmental markets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the title of this post doesn't make a whole lot of sense--unless it somehow got truncated. Is it supposed to be "Sharpen your irrigation skills as the era of cheap water approaches ITS END"?