2006 Water and Wastewater Rate Survey Preliminary Results and Industry Trends

Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. (RFC), in conjunction with the American Water Works Association (AWWA), conducts a biennial water and wastewater rate survey (Survey). There are a number of preliminary findings from the Survey, including:
  • Water and wastewater rates increased at about the same pace as inflation between 2004 and 2006, which is different from previous surveys which have found rates increasing faster than inflation;
  • Medium-sized utilities continue to have the lowest water and wastewater rates; and
  • Utilities in the Northeast and South have the highest residential water and wastewater charges, while utilities in the Midwest have the lowest water and wastewater charges.

While these findings may change slightly as the survey results are finalized, we would not expect major changes. However, there is not guarantee that they will change materially.

In 1986, Arthur Young and Co. conducted the initial National Water and Wastewater Rate Survey. Since then, the Survey has been conducted biennially. Following Arthur Young’s merger with Ernst & Whinney, Ernst & Young took over the survey. In 1996, Raftelis Environmental Consulting Group (the predecessor to RFC) conducted the Survey for the first time. Eight years later, AWWA partnered with RFC for the 2004 Survey. The 2006 Survey is the second edition conducted by RFC and AWWA.

The Survey covers a comprehensive set of financial characteristics and specific operational characteristics. The key data in the survey includes:

  • Service population;
  • Number of accounts;
  • Water sold;
  • Wastewater treated;
  • Water charges (residential and non-residential) at nine different usage levels;
  • Wastewater charges (residential and non-residential) at nine different usage levels;
  • Effective date of current rates;
  • System development charges (impact fees);
  • Base charges;
  • High strength surcharges;
  • Income statement data; and
  • Balance sheet data.

The survey was conducted in the second half of 2005 and in early 2006. After compiling the data, it was reviewed to identify any clearly questionable responses. A subset of the data was then distributed for review by the respondents to ensure that the data was as accurate as possible.

Surveys were returned by 260 utilities in the United States. The majority of these utilities provide both water and wastewater service and there were responses from 232 water utilities and 166 wastewater utilities. Due to the challenge of getting utilities to respond to the survey, the sample is not determined based on statistically significant measures. Instead, surveys are sent to past participants, clients of RFC, and other utilities that would help improve the diversity of the sample. There was at least one respondent from each state. The geographic distribution of respondents is summarized below.

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