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What Is the Real Cost of Municipal Water?

A faucet with water
The lead content of the city water in Flint, Michigan, was a public health crisis that shocked the nation. Unfortunately, contaminated water is not as unusual as people may think. Recent studies revealed that between 45 and 63 million Americans have unsafe tap water. Some communities even have lead levels higher than those reported in Flint. The real cost of water is not always about money.

Systems Are in Crisis

Many municipalities struggle to properly maintain their water services. Estimates reported in The Washington Post state that the necessary updates and repairs to the water infrastructure across the country will total $1 trillion over the next two decades. It is a cost that many communities cannot manage on their own.

Since 1977, federal funding for municipal water systems dropped by 74 percent, and the most recent budget proposal by the White House would eliminate another $498 million in loan programs. The loans are for rural communities, the areas most likely to suffer from infrastructure problems.

Service Is Unpredictable

Residents and businesses that rely on municipal water have very little control over the service or its price. A rate increase does not guarantee a better product or a more reliable service. A broken plumbing line can leave dozens of homes or business districts with flooded basements and no water.

Water must flow through miles of pipes to reach a home. The trip is a contamination risk through plumbing pipes of various ages and condition. Broken pipes, leaky sewer lines, and chemical exposure are just some of the potential risk factors that water experiences before it reaches a tap.

Cost Is Unpredictable

Statistics report that an American family of four using a municipal water system pays an average of $70.39 per month for their water service. The bill is based on four people using up to 100 gallons per person per day. Nationally, people use about 88 gallons per person each day according to 2OceansVibe.  

The monthly utility bill is not the only cost to homeowners using municipal water. Filters for the water system and filtered water pitchers add to the expense of city water. Filtering is the only way to protect against some of the problems caused by the chemicals added to municipal water.

The unpredictability of rate increases is another concern for every paying customer. Municipal systems that must upgrade their infrastructure cannot do so without more funding. The residents of the community shoulder the burden if the federal government does not cover the expense. An option for cash-strapped communities is to privatize their system.

Privately run water systems have statistically cost the residents more than their municipal system. The legal system now allows companies to run their water departments as for-profit organizations. The residents do not have any choice except to pay the bill, and the increased rate can be a struggle for many lower- and middle-class households.

Safety Is at Risk

Chlorine fades laundry and can lead to asthma and allergy issues for some people. Respiratory problems occasionally worsen due to exposure to fluoride, another additive in municipal water. Lead, mercury, and arsenic are just a few of the potential contaminants that can lead to higher risks of birth defects and cancer.

Freedom Is Available

Most Americans use municipal water in their homes and offices. Despite the claims of safety and oversight for the public service, Americans still spend over $11 billion for bottled water each year according to Slate. The cost of municipal water is a combination of the concerns about safety, convenience, and control as well the monthly fee.  

Homes served by private wells have fewer plumbing lines than public systems, so they face less contamination risk from the plumbing lines. The homeowner has the power to test their well any time to ensure the safety of their family. The cost of maintenance and the installation of the well are the only expenses and are easier to determine and control.

At Brown & Cox, we have a solution for anyone who is tired of the smell, taste, and risks of municipal water. Contact us to discuss the cost of installing and maintaining a private well to decide if this is the right choice for your home.