Utter Madness: Phoenix Has The Cheapest Water in the Country

The Arizona Republic reports that the Arizona Department of Water Resources has set six priorities for managing expected water shortages in the future.  The six are listed in one of those annoying click-bait page-flipping things, so I will summarize them below:

  1. Resolve water disputes
  2. Pursue reclaimed water
  3. Expand monitoring (of the public's water use)
  4. Look at water transfers (between communities)
  5. Go for desalinization
  6. Find funding (for large scale projects)

What is missing here?  Well I will give you a hint.  This article was on the very same page (at least online) of the newspaper -- Phoenix has the cheapest water in the country!

If you live in Phoenix, you’re probably paying one of the cheapest annual water bills in the country, even with the rate increase that took effect this month, according to a recent national report on public water systems.

The February report by Food & Water Watch said the lead-tainted water supply in Flint, Michigan, was the most expensive in the country, with customers there paying $910.05 a year. It said Phoenix residents paid just $84.24 a year, then the lowest rate in the nation.

A city water department official said the rates could be a little misleading – rates jump for heavy users, one factor that has helped Phoenix keep water use down even as the number of water users has risen sharply.

But even after the 3 percent increase that took effect March 1, analysts say Phoenix rates are probably still among the lowest, if not the lowest, in the country for residential customers who don’t use large amounts of water in a month.

This is absurd.  Why does the state agency need to go around spying on private water use and begging for funding when price is such an obvious lever to match supply and demand.  Raise the freaking prices!  Are we drawing from lakes and groundwater faster than they can replenish themselves?  Raise the dang price until demand falls to a sustainable level.  As an extra bonus, this would help solve the funding problem, and have it solved by water users themselves rather than taxpayers.

By the way, I ask these questions but I actually know the answers -- government officials don't want to take the heat when the prices rise.  They want to pander to the public and hand them populist goodies like cheap water, and then manage the inevitable water crisis with authoritarian actions like rationing and surveillance that increase their personal power.

And congrats to our newspaper:  It has article after article, day after day, listing all the dire water shortages that face the area, and then they write this article with nary a mention that having the country's lowest water rates might be related.


  1. Ike Pigott:

    But Warren!

    Water is essential to LIFE! It is so important, that just like Human Beings, it is immoral to subject it to the capitalist pig-dog rules of supply and demand!

  2. Brad Warbiany:

    Warren, have you read the book "The Water Knife"?


    If you haven't, I recommend it. It's a page-turner based on fights over water rights in a near-future time when states are essentially going to war over water. I think you'd enjoy it immensely.

  3. Immigrant in CA:

    That is why Trump is a symptom not the disease!

  4. J_W_W:

    Bbbbbbuuuutttt Capitialism is evil!!!!

  5. SamWah:

    As is stupid government.

  6. STW:

    I am still surprised that my water rates more than doubled when I moved from near San Diego to a town on the banks of the Yellowstone River. Cheap water with virtually no natural supply; expensive water with one of the nation's great rivers just outside the door. Phoenix versus SoCal stupidity on water is only a matter of degree.

  7. Earl Wertheimer:

    Here in Montreal, water is 'free'. There are no meters, so we pay for it in our taxes.

    The City recently thought that metering businesses would be a good idea, so they awarded a $355 million contract...
    Those guys are now being investigated.

    Meanwhile, in 2009, the city produced 675 million cubic meters of clean water. About 50% of that is lost because the water pipes are not being maintained...

    So, they want to decrease consumption by metering (good idea) but are corrupted by the contracting process (as usual). Half the cleaned water leaks out of the system (bad) but we have millions of gallons of fresh (but not drinkable) water flowing around the island on its way to the Atlantic...

    Why bother metering it?

    Moral: If the City does it, they will find a way to screw it up. Every plan is a new opportunity for graft. Shortages elsewhere are an opportunity to control supply locally.

  8. markm:

    Montreal is providing another example of the problem with free (or flat-rate) services - they will be misused when misuse doesn't cost more. Another reason for metering water, no matter how cheaply it is provided, is that it serves as a proxy for sewage volume. Proper sewage treatment does cost enough to make it a good idea to charge by volume rather than a flat rate, but it's impractical to meter the sewage itself. So my water bill includes two charges, water and sewage, both based on the same meter reading.

  9. Todd Ramsey:

    My (rainy) Seattle suburb has a summertime peak water rate of $0.15 per cubic foot. That's $45 to put an inch of water on a 3600 square foot lawn. I challenge anyone to beat that.