907-729-3635 ntwc@anthc.org

Water and wastewater systems require consistent funding in order to operate sustainably. The cost of water service to an individual customer varies greatly depending on the size of the system, the number of households served, the treatment required for a particular water source, and the heating and cooling needs of the local environment.

When customers know exactly where the money from their monthly water bill goes, it can help them understand the justification for and benefit of their payment. Although the percentages may vary from one community to the next, customer water bills often cover the following expenses:

  • Energy: The electricity and fuel cost required to run the mechanical components of the water/wastewater system.
  • Labor: The cost required to compensate operators and support staff for their work.
  • Parts and Equipment: The cost of new equipment for system upgrades, replacement and spare parts for when a component breaks or approaches the end of its lifespan.
  • Chemicals: The cost of chemicals needed to treat the water or wastewater.
  • Regulatory Compliance: The cost of sampling and testing required to meet regulatory standards.

The chart below shows a breakdown by percentage of what the average water bill supports in communities of the Alaska Rural Utility Cooperative (ARUC).

By reviewing your utility budget, your water utility managers can determine the percentage of total expenses for each cost category shown above and create a similar chart for your community.

The Spokane Tribe’s Approach

​The Spokane Tribe of Indians in Wellpinit, Washington, working in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, concluded that their customers needed educational outreach to better understand the true cost of public drinking water. They identified a number of outreach strategies, including: sending fliers to customers with their water bills, holding educational meetings and events, and educating children in schools on the provision of drinking water alongside providing information for them to pass along to their parents and family. The project team developed an educational poster to display in public areas.

Other Resources on Water Bills

Click below to view a simple handout that
ARUC has created for customers
in their communities.

Click below for more information on
how water utility managers determine
water and wastewater bill rates.

Click below for resources that will
help you engage your community
on the traditional value of water.