Monetary Value Monday: Increase in US Water Rates

Water Rate Increases have been in the news repeatedly over the years but recently much more frequently I have come across constant increases in both water rates and sewer rates to offset utility infrastructure projects, utility debt, to help utilities repay loans and secure new water sources. A few of the water rate increase I have come across in the last month are below: (So you are not the only one)

1%-15% Rate Increase:

16%-40% Rate Increase:

  • Foster City, CA. On July 1, 2012 SFPUC notified EMID that it will increase the wholesale rate for water from $2.63 / ccf to $2.95 / ccf. Representing a 12% increase. EMID must respond to this increase by increasing its base consumption rate to $3.13 / ccf, which represents an 18% increase in consumption charges to its customers effective July 1, 2012. Fixed meter charges, however, will be decreased by 10% from their current rates.
  • Upshur, VA 20% Increase
  • Plymouth, MA. 21% increase
  • San Jose, CA.21% increase within the next year and 44% increase over the next three years (Taking residential bills from $65 to $93)
  • Visalia, CA 25.3% Increase
  • Joplin, Missouri 25.5% Increase
  • Sistersville, VA 27% increase
  • Brandon, MS Increased 27% since 2000
  • Boiling Springs, PA 27% increase
  • Lafayette, CA29% Increase
  • Madison, MS Increased 30% since 2000
  • Oolitic, IN 32% Increase 
  • Jackson, MS 35% increase in first year of use
  • Scituate, MA 10% Increase expected to increase to 35% increase

41%-60% Rate Increase:

61%-80% Rate Increase:
81%-100% Rate Increase:
101%-200% Rate Increase:

Is desalination really California’s the first line of defense against water scarcity???

Desalination exists within California as a small production source, producing between .002 to 0.600million gallons per day. These plants are used for industrial processes. In 2002, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2717 (Directing the department of water resources to establish a desalination task force to make recommendations related to potential opportunities for the use of seawater and brackish water desalination. The desalination task force established that desalination could only contribute to less than 10% of California’s water supply needs. Nine years after Assembly Bill 2717 passed, private corporations and municipal water agencies have proposed new desalination plants. There currently are over twenty large-scale desalination plants proposed throughout California (ranging in capacity from .40 MGD to 80MGD). The technology that is projected within desalination plants is Reverse Osmosis; a little insight on the inefficiency of this technology is displayed in the cost breakdown below: 
Pros: 
  • Provides reliable drought-resistant water supply to California
  • Improve water quality  compared to existing sources
  • Lessen the demand on northern California’s water supply by developing a local alternative for Southern California. 
Cons:
  • Can add harmful chemicals and metals into the water it produces 
  • Intake waters could contain: Pharmaceuticals, algal toxins, and endocrine disruptors depending on water supply source
  • Desalination is extremely energy intensive, requiring 30% more energy than existing inter-basing supply system and the energy expense is 50% of the plants operating cost
  • Desalination also would indirectly cause more GHG emissions (greater dependence on fossil fuels) 
Desalination Project:
Desalination plants within California were indirectly withdrawn when coastal power plants once- through cooling methods ( seawater intakes and use the seawater for cooling from the power plant). In 2010, the California State Water Resource Control Board passed a policy to phase out the use of once-through cooling because of the impact on marine life. There were 20 desalination proposed to use open seawater intakes to withdraw water and ten of these will likely co-locate with existing power plants in order to share the intake pipes. Only 13 of those 20 projects are moving forward. 
Alternatives to Current and desalination water supply systems:
  1. Urban water conservation 
  2. Stormwater Capture/ reuse
  3. Water Recycling
  4. Groundwater Desalination requires less energy than seawater desalination because the water is less saline. 
  5. Greywater 

Crazy World Water Facts

1.  South Korea’s Hanwha Engineering & Construction company signed a $1.05 Billion deal to build a power station and desalination facility in Saudi Arabia. Expected to be completed in 2014.
2.  In Syria, on the other hand, Badia Development project in Hama Governate has completed construction on two water desalination plants totaling approximately $337,000. These plants will be using Charcoal and sand filters to supply clean drinking water to al-Badia inhabitants (addressing extreme shortage issues)
3.  Abu Dhabi implemented an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Program, which used the over capacity of desalination plants to replenish the underground water reservoir. Dubai is now following in similar footsteps by implementing a pilot project to recycle 182.5 million M3/year of generated wastewater to help recharge depleting groundwater supplies. Currently, 70% of all municipal wastewater in Dubai is being reused after treatment.
4.  Kuwait has the highest water consumption per capita in the world, around 500 liters per day 
5. South East England mitigates water stress by implementing a 50 million metering program, increasing the number of metered customers to 70% however they will not be charged until 2012.
6. GE Doubles capacity of China Manufacturing facilities, Wuxi- eastern China ( the focus of development on water infrastructure) GE plans to invest $2 billion through to 2012 to expand operations in China. Thus far, the plant includes Recycling, filtration and processing technologies (RO, Ultra filtration, and MWNT)
7. Current Leaky infrastructure adds up to $20 billion: According to Lux Research group the market is growing at 10% and is mostly being financed by spiraling consumer water bills. Lux Research states that a pipe monitoring program and technology would solve most infrastructure issues (there new product: Smart-meter)
8. Mobile Water Systems: with Japans and other recent natural disasters new markets have begun to expand the potable water and mobile water treatment. The expected generated revenues are $895 million by 2016. Currently the geographic breakdown is 
  • Americas: GE and Siemens (70% market control
  • Europe: GE, Degremont, Veolia (60% market share) and Lenntech, Eimco, and Norit 
  • Middle East & Africa: GE, Septech, Al Tamimi, (growth of market because of expansion)
  • Asia- Pacific: None of the top tier companies have a substantial presence: however GE, Siemens, Degremont, and Veolia have regional offices for early entrants. 

Random Water Facts and Disputes

  1. Fire Departments Vs. Public Utilities: Numerous Utilities in North Carolina have had extensive water theft by local fire departments. When I initially heard of this argument, I thought it was a misprint, but it’s not…. Numerous fire departments have been illegally drawing water from hydrants to fill swimming pools and other non-firefighting related activities. Little do they know that North Carolina legislation states that fire departments and other water thefts can be charged $500.00 per misuse or five times the cost of water taken (which can be high). (Call with Warren Public Utility)
  2. According to the AWWA 08 rate study: National water and wastewater charges increased 12.3% and 15.1%, respectively, for a residential customer using 1,000 cubic feet (cf) of water a month between January 1, 2006 and July 1, 2008.  During the same period, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all urban customers increased 10.9%.
  3. Between 1996 and 2008, water and wastewater charges for residential customers using 1,000 ccf per month have increased 4.21% and 4.39% annually, respectively, which is greater than the annual CPI increase of 2.87% (AWWA Rate Study, 2008).
  4. Water and wastewater charges are highest in the Northeast while water and wastewater charges are lowest in the Midwest (AWWA Rate Study, 2008).
  5. Even with the charge increases, water and wastewater charges remain affordable as defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency.(National Census Data).

Veolia: Water Impact Index

 

Laurent Auguste: President of Veolia Water (North America) presented Veolia’s new Water Impact Index at the 2010 Milwaukee Water Summit to show the new trend in water Sustainability. The Water Impact Index will assess the impact of the activity or a product upon a freshwater source through the impact on the quantity of  the water, stress on resources and quality. The Importance of the carbon footprint impact because there are alternatives of Gas and Coal. But unlike oil water does not have an alternative, 8 tons of oil is consumed per year while 2,140 tons of water is consumed per year (250 times more).  Water is consumed in two fashions withdraw and pollution. It is almost impossible to build a global calculation due to the local and regional difference of water resources. But locally this water footprint can show the efficiency and effectiveness of water conservation and infrastructure.
 
The 2010 April edition of National Geographic introduced the virtual contents of water in products; this issue introduced a form of awareness similar to how calories did for the food we consume. However, Veolia points out that yes this awareness is important but the National Geographic model failed to incorporate the component of water quality and water stress impact. For example, the National Geographic model states that Peanuts were six times more impactful then Tomatoes sauce. But when really looking at the life cycle to the two products it is vice versa, Impact of Tomato sauce: irrigated farm typically in water stressed areas, required fertilizer (pollution) while the impact of Peanuts: rain-fed agriculture.  This is important for how we understand basic consumer products. Therefore, we must look into more than just volume consumption, but also the level of stress and quality.
The Calculation that Veolia has developed has two basic stages indirect and direct impact. The indirect are typically added to regional and local differences while the direct is: Water Stress Index x ((Volume consumed by utility x Quality Index)– (Discharge water x quality index)).  This video below introduces a basic Case Study Veolia had done in Milwaukee using extensive data from Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage Districts, Milwaukee Water Works, North Shore Water Commission, Oak Creek Water and Sewer Utility, and Cudahy Water Utility.
The research broke down the Urban Water Cycle into: Raw Water Abstraction, Drinking Water Production, Drinking water distribution, wastewater collection, wastewater treatment, treated wastewater release, waste and sludge management, and network maintenance. Completed a cost benefits analysis on the efficiency of resources used across each and pinpointed inefficiencies through he Carbon Foot Print. The CFP of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage Districts is around 230,000 tons of Co2, which are rough 15,500 people. 2/3 of the CFP of the Capital works are coming from the pipes material. The Milwaukee regional studies showed a 7x decrease in the scale of the water quantity over ten years and provided extensive improvements for the regional utilities.