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Water Pricing
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A new study finds that Australia’s groundwater contributes more to GDP than some industries.

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Utilities tinker with rate structures designed to stabilize revenue.

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Map: 2012 Water Prices in 30 Major U.S. Cities

The price that Americans pay for water is rising faster than the cost of any other utility service in the United States — be it gas, electricity, or telephone charges.

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The price of water can be influenced by the supply sources and systems, in addition to the number of users who are sharing these water resources and the burden to pay for the supply system’s maintenance.

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The Price of Water 2012

Rates have increased in many cities, but local conditions dictate by how much and how the increase is distributed. Chicago prices are up nearly 25 percent, while Los Angeles is down by 9 percent.

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Adapting to climate change in the U.S., according to one estimate, will cost at least a half trillion dollars over the next four decades.

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Hundreds of billions of dollars are needed for renovation and improvement. But what projects will be chosen, and who will pay?

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Shiprock, New Mexico: The Navajo Nation — which spans a 70,000-square-kilometer stretch of mesa, sand, and canyons in parts of New Mexico, Utah, and northern Arizona — is the largest and, arguably, the driest American Indian reservation in the United States.

The largest reservation in the U.S. has one of the nation’s highest poverty rates — more than 40 percent — and very little water infrastructure. Many residents pay nearly 50 times the municipal cost for water, which instead is delivered from a tank in the back of a truck, often resulting in water-borne intestinal illnesses.

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When I go to water meetings, there are serious scientific discussions about climate impacts on water systems, international conflicts over water, water quality and contamination threats, new technologies and strategies for providing basic water and sanitation for the world’s poor, and much more. But in the hallways between meetings and sessions, the real arguments are about the conflicts between public and private control and management of water.

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Public Art Purple Pipe

The $1.8 billion Brightwater facility, 10 miles northeast of Seattle, eschews old notions of what a sewage plant is. State-of-the-art membrane technology produces reusable water, a trail system allows outdoor recreation, and wetlands give salmon a place to spawn.

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EPA

The sewer district joins more than 40 American municipalities renovating their sewer systems to comply with the CWA.

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Arsenic in Drinking Water US

When the EPA lowered the arsenic standard for drinking water from 50 parts per billion to 10 in 2001, there were 3,000 water systems in violation. Today, nearly a thousand still are.

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US Water Pricing

Because of costlier inputs and infrastructure replacement, rate experts predict prices will only go higher.

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Following Circle of Blue’s survey of water prices, we examine the wastewater costs of the same 30 major cities.

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“For more than 20 years industry has been moving south looking for cheaper labor, I’m hoping that now they’ll start coming back looking for cheaper water.”

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Water Department cuts connections to thousands of city’s poor.

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In too many American cities to count, water consumers are dramatically reducing the amount they use only to be hit with higher water rates.

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There’s nothing like a fiscal deficit to prompt municipal leaders to think hard about how to save money. Everything is on the table and no city service or asset is untouchable. So last November when the mayor of Carbondale, Illinois made several suggestions for bailing out the cash-strapped city, the idea of selling the municipal water and sewer system gained serious traction.

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