Rocky Mountain Water - March/April 2023


Water Equity Is Becoming a Major Concern

for Cities By Quinn Jackson-Elliott

T HE WORLD IS BECOMING MORE URBAN. A WELL cited United Nations report showed that 55% of the world’s population lived in urban areas in 2018, with that number expected to rise to 68% by 2050. Unfortunately, the existing infrastructure of most cities isn’t well-prepared for this influx of people, and tight budgets hamper plans for future improvements. Plenty of examples have already emerged. St. George, Utah, is the fastest-growing metro area in America, with the county’s population expected to more than double over the next 40 years. Officials are already worried there won’t be enough water to keep pace with that growth. Utah Senator Mitt Romney told county officials, “We’re going to have to make some fairly significant adjustments in the way we live our lives in the American West, or we are going to find ourselves running out of water.”

Water scarcity and economic stability are tightly linked. The concept of water equity—where every community has access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water—is easy to support but harder to achieve. There are no state or national standards, and average monthly residential water bills vary widely across the United States, from $95 in Alaska to $6 in Florida. As water scarcity intensifies, so will the challenge of water equity. A growing number of cities are finding that one effective way to foster water equity is by focusing on the biggest water users: large commercial and industrial customers. This group of cus tomers represents an outsized portion of water use and, there fore, utility revenue. The large meters that track commercial customers’ water use typically are responsible for 40 to 60% of utility revenue, despite being around 10% of the meter fleet. That makes it critical for cities to accurately measure the water use running through these large commercial meters,


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