The Value of Tap Water
What’s more basic to life than water? While water is so fundamentally valuable to us, we don’t often stop to consider a simple fact: that regular tap water is a true bargain — even with increasing costs — especially compared to other everyday products or services.
- Rising treatment costs: California tap water meets some of the most stringent water quality standards in the nation. Producing high-quality water requires significant investments in treatment technologies. In addition, new drinking water regulations continue to be established since new technology detects contaminants at extremely minute levels.
- Aging water infrastructure: From treatment plants to pumping stations to local storage tanks to pipelines, much of the system that delivers water to Californians was built decades ago. Aging parts of that system must be upgraded, repaired or replaced to ensure reliable water deliveries for future residents and businesses. Capital expenses and debt service to fund those repairs and upgrades can account for a significant portion of monthly water bills.
- Increasing energy costs: Electricity can account for a substantial portion of a local water agency’s operating expenses. Water is a heavy substance that requires a great deal of energy to move from the source to the tap, which could require pumping it out of the ground, over mountains, and long distances. Energy is also used during the water treatment process to remove impurities.
- investing in new supplies: California’s population continues to grow, but our statewide water supply system of canals, pipelines or other storage facilities has not been significantly expanded in more than three decades. Local water agencies have invested billions of dollars in local resource strategies, such as water recycling, groundwater storage, conservation and other projects, to stretch supplies and increase reliability. These strategies are much more expensive than sources we have relied on in the past and monthly water bills may reflect a share of the costs.
- Environmental protection and nonnative species: Perhaps the biggest cost driver today is taking care of the environment and protecting water systems from non-native species. Efforts by local agencies to help protect their distribution systems from the spread of debilitating nonnative species such as quagga mussels have added another unforeseen cost, particularly over the past five years.