New study finds private water systems 58% more expensive than public, on average

A new study released by Food & Water Watch this week looked at the rates of the 500 largest water systems, public and private, in the United States. The study found that

  • Among the 500 largest water systems, for-profit privately owned systems charge 58 percent more than large publicly owned systems.
  • An overwhelming majority of U.S. water customers—87 percent—receive their water from a publicly owned, not-for-profit service provider.
  • The 10 most affordable water systems are publicly owned and operated.
  • Many of our community water systems are over 100 years old, and in desperate need of repair.
  • From 2007 to 2014, the portion of people with water service from a publicly controlled entity increased from 83 percent to 87 percent. The number of publicly owned systems remained steady, but overall added 24 million customers to their networks.
  • Between 2007 and 2014, the number of private systems dropped seven percent, while the number of people served by privately owned systems fell by 18 percent (8 million people).
  • The average public water utility charged $316.20 for 60,000 gallons a year, while the average for-profit water company charged $500.96 for the same amount.
  • West Virginia American Water currently ranks 11th most expensive among the 500 largest water systems considered in the study.

Read the full study here. See the ranking of utilities by cost here.