Yeah, I’m Cheap

Another April 15 has come and gone. Did a warm feeling of satisfaction sweep over you as you wrote your check to the IRS? Feel like you are getting your money’s worth? How about when you pay other bills? Surely, there is one bill that makes you think, “Wow, I can’t believe how little I pay for how much I get in return! Paying this bill makes me smile!”

A few weeks ago I asked you to think of three things you consider essential. If you don’t have a top three, take a moment and mentally create a list. What value do you place on these items? Are they worth every penny you pay?

One can assume we put a higher monetary value on what we consider most important in our lives. If water was on your list of top three, as it should be, what price is fair to put on this commodity? We need it for our basic survival – try going without for three days and see how you are feeling. We also turn to water for putting out fires, cleaning, preventing the spread of disease, growing fruits and vegetables, manufacturing products, creating energy, flushing a toilet… The beneficial uses of water are overflowing!

Now what is its worth? What do you believe to be a fair price to pay for clean drinking water transported to your house to meet all of your daily needs? I often hear water should be free. After all, it is supplied by nature, available at any local river, and is replenished by rain. No one put forth any effort to create it, so cost should be nonexistent, right? Well, if you believe this, then please be my guest and walk to your nearest outdoor spring, river, creek, or puddle the next time you brush your teeth.

While your tap water isn’t free, I suggest it is cheap. Utilities must balance the expenses of treating and delivering quality water with what people can afford to pay for this vital service. In 2007 Athens-Clarke County (ACC) implemented a tiered rate structure to encourage water conservation. Looking at the current rates, you find one gallon of ACC tap water costs a customer $.004 in Tier 1.Go up to Tier 4 and the cost rises to just $.01 per gallon. Yes, one penny for one gallon of water in the highest tier rate.Compare this to other liquid products you may purchase by the gallon.

The reality is this irreplaceable resource we rely on does come at a price. Here are a few factors which contribute to determining the rates required to adequately treat and distribute water:

  1. There is the cost for installing, maintaining, and repairing the infrastructure we rely on to deliver water to our homes, businesses, schools, and hospitals.

  2. Utilities must be able to cover the rising expenses of electricity, chemicals and fuel used to supply and treat water.

  3. Federally required security enhancements have been put into place following the 9/11 terror attacks, adding to expenditures.

  4. Salaries must be paid to the workers who are on the clock 24/7 every day of the year to ensure water delivery does not fail.

Let’s now compare three bills: water, cell phone, and cable/Internet service. In my earlier blog we found people listed smart phones and flat screen TVs as essential items. What is your bill for your cell phone? The Internet cable we all enjoy watching on our TVs? I don’t know about you, but both my individual cell phone and cable bill are higher than my water charges. And which of these three items is truly essential in my life?

I can’t say looking at my water bill in this way will make me smile when I write my next check, but looking at the value and benefits I receive from this service does make me appreciate it more. It is hard to believe I can get so much from something so cheap.


Originally posted on, 4/16/13


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