The survey, which was conducted in 2010, found that average residential water use varied tremendously from 41 gallons/person/day in Boston to 211 gallons/person/day in Fresno. It also found tremendous variation in water rates. I've included statistics from Circle of Blue for New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, and Las Angeles, which demonstrate some of the unexpected behaviour in relative pricing. LA has the lowest rainfall of all these cities and imports 89% of its water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Colorado River and other water sources and you would expect its water bills to be high. But they are exceeded by Seattle, in the Northwest, one of the wettest places in the country. Atlanta's average annual rainfall exceeds Seattle's and is about five times LA's, yet its water rates exceed LA's. One thing that is expected, cities near the world's largest fresh water lakes tend to have the lowest rates in the US, as exemplified by Chicago. But water rates in Chicago are interesting. 71 percent of single-family homes and other residential properties aren't metered, but are charged based the widths of their buildings and lots.
Circle of Blue's survey of wastewater rates in 30 metro areas in the US is even more interesting. A household would be likely to pay $13.92/month for wastewater services in Salt Lake City. In Atlanta their bill would be $208.60/month (15 times as much), partially because of the costs associated with upgrading Atlanta's waste water system that I blogged about yesterday. Similar increases in rates are projected for Cleveland, Akron, and many other cities with aging wastewater infrastructure. Seattle and King County are already upgrading their wasterwater infrastructure to address combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and other issues, and Seattle's rates are even higher than Atlanta's. Chicago has been working on a 30 year $4 billion effort to address CSO's with a Tunnel and Reservoir Plan that has produced some impressive impacts (man made geysers in downtown Chicago), but its rates remain incredibly low, perhaps because the project involves the US Army Corps of Engineers and has significant Federal funding or because of the interesting way Chicago charges for water and sewer services.