Water Is Much More Expensive in These 5 Cities, Study Finds

Find out which American cities have the costliest water bills.

When you turn the handle of your faucet a dozen times a day, it’s easy to take the magic of running water for granted. But somewhere on the other end of that faucet, the looming factors of climate change and aging water delivery infrastructures are quickly injecting that magic with a heavy dose of reality. In fact, these and other factors caused U.S. water and wastewater utility prices to double between 2000 and 2016, according to The Brookings Institution.

So in a recent analysis based on data from Circle of Blue, GOBankingRates wades deeper into water bills across more than two dozen major American cities.

In 2017, nonprofit journalist group Circle of Blue collected eight years’ worth of water rates data from 30 major U.S. cities — locales spanning the whole cost-of-living spectrum —  and examined monthly residential water prices for a family of four based on three varying levels of consumption: 50, 100 and 150 gallons of water usage per person, per day. GOBankingRates analyzed this data in 2018, calculating and comparing water bill prices based on averaging those three levels of consumption into a single figure.

U.S. Water Affordability Rising Concerns

As a 2017 study from the University of Michigan published in the journal PLOS ONE discloses that water is — at this very moment — unaffordable for one in 10 U.S. households. That amounts to 13.8 million households or about 11.9 percent of residences. And as unthinkable as that figure seems, it’s set to balloon to more than 30 percent within the next five years. As of 2018, no federal regulations guarantee a citizen’s right to water, making rising water prices a particular burden on America’s poorest families.

In an interview with Futurity, study author Elizabeth Mack points out that the burgeoning water crisis is no longer a third-world issue — it has arrived on our doorstep. As Mack puts it:

“Water is a fundamental right for all humans. However, a growing number of people in the United States and globally face daily barriers to accessing clean, affordable water. … The hope is that enhanced awareness of this issue in the developed world will highlight the severity of the issue.”

Research Trends: Cost of Water in America

According to Circle of Blue and GOBankingRates findings, California’s rising cost of living — not to mention its arid atmosphere and susceptibility to droughts — makes it a prime target for high water prices, with four of the top 10 costliest water bills coming from cities in the Golden State.

How Much Water Costs Across the United States

Cost of living doesn’t necessarily show an unbreakable correlation with water prices, as cities such as New York ranked in the upper half of water affordability. Texas is represented with five popular metropolitan cities. But even this single state has a large disparity in average water prices, with monthly bills ranging from a cool $54.29 in Fort Worth to an overflowing $119.94 in Austin.

Here’s a complete look at the average cost of water in 30 cities:

CityStateAverage
Santa FeNew Mexico$164.22
San FranciscoCalifornia$131.46
AustinTexas$119.94
San DiegoCalifornia$119.85
SeattleWashington$106.39
Los AngelesCalifornia$101.31
AtlantaGeorgia$91.92
BostonMassachusetts$82.54
San JoseCalifornia$81.46
TucsonArizona$77.13
PhiladelphiaPennsylvania$71.66
HoustonTexas$71.22
CharlotteNorth Carolina$70.90
IndianapolisIndiana$67.46
San AntonioTexas$65.39
New YorkNew York$60.96
ColumbusOhio$57.30
DallasTexas$55.40
Fort WorthTexas$54.29
BaltimoreMaryland$54.10
Las VegasNevada$52.38
ChicagoIllinois$45.72
DenverColorado$44.50
DetroitMichigan$44.42
JacksonvilleFlorida$43.30
PhoenixArizona$41.45
MilwaukeeWisconsin$41.13
FresnoCalifornia$31.02
Salt Lake CityUtah$30.65
MemphisTennessee$29.38

Keep reading to learn how you can lower your utilities.

Methodology: GOBankingRates.com analyzed water usages across 30 major cities in the U.S. by looking at the water bill for a family of four that uses 50, 100, 150 gallons of water per person per day, sourced from Circle of Blue. Average monthly cost was calculated by averaging costs at these three levels. Cities were then ranked according to this calculated average.