The Cost of Water

This week’s post was written by WCO intern Laura Keys.

We only pay for beer

William Murphy, flickr

Watching the news this past week, my eye was captured by a major change taking place in Ireland. Up until now, Ireland’s water users have been getting their water for free (covered by general taxes), but to raise money to maintain its aging infrastructure, Ireland has started rolling out water meters and plans to charge users based on the volume of water they use. Understandably, many Irish are distressed at this change, and some have taken to the streets in protest with such catchy slogans as “We don’t pay for water, we only pay for beer.”

This slogan gave me pause, and I thought about how happily we purchase such beverages as beer, soda, and bottled water and how unhappily we gripe about paying for treated tap water. Many people argue that water should be free; it is one of the few things necessary for survival, after all, so they make a good point. However, when you look at the cost of tap water versus these other drinkable liquids, it almost seems laughable to complain about the costs.

This past month, my household used a little over 4,000 gallons of water, giving us a water bill of around $20. Here’s a comparison of what some other liquids would cost in that same quantity:


Okay, so we use tap water for a lot more than just quenching our thirst, but the point still stands that tap water is ridiculously cheap compared to just about anything else around. It would be a better deal to reverse the Irish slogan: pay for water and get the rest for free!

fixing leaks

The danger in having such low prices on water is that there’s often little encouragement to curb water use and conserve. Sometimes people only discover leaks around the house after their water bill skyrockets to $200, when tens of thousands of gallons of water have already been wasted. With Spring having arrived in Athens, now is a good time to consider your own water use. Check your toilets and pipes for leaks, install low-flow showerheads and faucets, hook up a rain barrel to your gutters, and consider a drip irrigation system for your garden. Not only will you help conserve water, but you’ll help cut the cost of your water bill even further. For more information, contact your friendly Water Conservation Office!


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