Shadi Eskaf is a Senior Project Director for the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Our research shows that water rates have been rising faster than CPI inflation in the past few years for hundreds of utilities, particularly after the financial crisis. In some states, however, there were also many utilities whose rates failed to keep pace with inflation.
From a rate-setting perspective, utilities that raised rates more frequently had a double advantage over utilities that raised rates only occasionally or rarely. First: the average annual rate increase was lower than the one-time rate increases of utilities that occasionally raised rates, reducing the rate shock that customers experienced when rates rose. Second: despite the lower average rate increases, utilities that raised rates more frequently accumulated, on average, a larger total increase in rates in a five-year period than utilities that raised rates only occasionally.